The Three Marketeers

Economist heroes? It sounds silly unless you understand how close we came to economic meltdown last year. This close

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There are many challenges to face between now and then. Japan, which, as a banker and buyer, is crucial to any plans for a recovery in Asia, continues to struggle with economic reform. And in the U.S., growth is more dependent than ever on the stock market--which has been powered to new highs on the back of Greenspan's interest-rate cuts during the fall. The link between the Dow and the GDP means that a major correction in the stock market could send the trio's fondest hopes into the dustbin. "They have done a masterful job so far," says Stephen Roach, a Morgan Stanley economist. "Unfortunately, in financial markets you are only as good as your last move. If Greenspan's legacy is a stock-market bubble, he will not be treated kindly by history."

None of the three men will talk about life after government, though Rubin says of Summers, "Larry is one of the few people smart enough to be either chairman of the Federal Reserve or Secretary of the Treasury." Few who know Summers doubt that he will someday hold one of those jobs.

But the men don't seem in a rush to move anywhere. Partly this is their engagement in the process. It is also something else. When the three talk about their "special" relationship, they are hinting at how fortunate it is that they can work together instead of apart. Says Robert Hormats, vice chairman of Goldman Sachs International: "There have been moments in the past year when it has been, as Churchill said, a very near thing. These guys kept a near thing from becoming a disaster." That has happened because the men feel that being at the right place at the right time also means doing the right thing, putting their egos aside and, in an almost antique sense of civic duty, answering the phone when it rings.

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