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Who advises candidates on economic crisis?

Both pick mainstream experts, but Obama’s are more interventionist.

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“If I had to describe [Obama’s] approach to economics, I’d say pragmatic balance,” says Jared Bernstein, who has been consulted by Obama and who works at the liberal Economic Policy Institute in Washington. “He surrounds himself with many different views,” including those of some Republicans such as former Bush Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill, he says. “My view is that he cherry-picks the very best ideas.”

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In discussions about economic growth and income inequality, he says, Obama will want to make progress on both fronts, not one or the other.

Similarly, McCain adviser John Taylor says in an e-mail interview that the Republican candidate actively solicits advice from a range of advisers.

McCain consults prominent academics, such as Harvard University’s Martin Feldstein and Kenneth Rogoff, and business leaders such as eBay’s Meg Whitman.

Different views on regulation

Taylor says the overall philosophy of McCain and his team contrasts sharply with Obama’s on several fronts, most notably taxes. He says Obama’s plan to boost taxes on upper-income Americans, including many job-creating small businesses, is “the exact opposite of a stimulus” for the ailing economy.

One close McCain adviser who has stirred particular controversy is Phil Gramm, a former senator from Texas. A long-time McCain associate, he lost his campaign co-chair role recently after he called America a “nation of whiners” and in a “mental recession.”

“In my view Phil Gramm is largely responsible for this whole mess,” since he was a key proponent of financial deregulation in the 1990s, says Lawrence Mitchell, author of “The Speculation Economy.”

The problem embodied in the thinking of Mr. Gramm and others such as the Fed’s Alan Greenspan, he says, was an ideologically driven view that markets can function without regulation. He worries that such views will persist in a McCain White House.

Obama’s team includes many people who served under President Clinton and signed those very deregulation efforts. But in Mitchell’s view, these advisers do not view regulation through the same lens as Gramm.

Keith Poole, a political scientist at the University of California, San Diego, notes the choice of advisers or campaign positions only goes so far in predicting what the next president will do. And whoever wins, he says, is “going to run into very rough water.”

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