When the official transition from Bush to Obama occurred on January 20, it seemed so easy on TV. Deterred by the thought of two million people trying to get to the National Mall, I decided it would be more comfortable to watch it from my living room. Behind the scenes hundreds of individuals have been working long hours to make the transition smooth for the Executive Office of the President.
For those of us working under both Administrations it requires a big shift -- new leadership (Christy Romer, Cecilia Rouse, and Austan Goolsbee), new perspectives and agendas, new processes, and a loss of almost all work from the past six months - email, documents, and computer hard drives.
The final days under the Bush Administration were relatively quiet. I got to meet President Bush on his last Friday in office, which also happened to be the day that the 2009 Economic Report of the President was released. The Oval office is quite impressive. It is bright and sunny. Pictures of Washington and Lincoln face the President's very ornate desk. President Bush welcomed each of us, we got a picture, and then he gave a short talk that covered the economic crisis, reflections on his time in office, and his anticipation of returning to Texas.
Since January 20, it has been a steep learning curve. The new leadership is fresh and energetic. CEA is having to re-define its role and in many cases "educate" others in the EOP about what we bring to the table. There is a new Office of Health Care Reform and I hope that I will be able to connect into that group in the near future. It is unclear at present what health care reform ideas will be pushed given the declining economy. In the immediate term, the stimulus package proposes health IT investment incentives for doctors and hospitals to implement EHRs, financial relief for States facing significant budget pressures given rising demand for Medicaid, and reforms to COBRA which include a premium subisidy program to help workers who have lost their jobs and a "buy-in" for up to a 10 year period for certain groups of workers (e.g., those 55 and older and those who have worked for an employer at least 10 years).
It has been an interesting transition. I expect even more interesting things to come.