Aside from that, he believes the outlines of a solution are pretty straightforward.
"The basics of the deficit problem don't really seem to be very complicated and are widely understood by economists of all different political stripes," he says. "You could probably take 100 economists and put them in a room where half would be Democrats and half Republicans and 87 would give you the same answer," he says.
That would involve raising revenues and cutting expenses, almost certainly to "untouchable" programs such as Social Security and Medicare. If we do it too quickly, however, we would kill off growth and find ourselves in the situation much of Europe is in at the moment, Westbrook says.
As for putting a bankruptcy expert in the top job, one is hard-pressed to come up with a suitable candidate. One of the best-known restructuring experts, Wilbur Ross, supported Romney during the last election, assuming he had any interest in the job.
A longtime colleague and friend of Westbrook, Elizabeth Warren, might have made many Democrats who feel the party is too much in the thrall of Wall Street very happy. And she just happens to be a bankruptcy expert. The only problem, of course, is she will be otherwise occupied, having just won the junior Senate seat in Massachussetts.
Would Westbrook be willing to take the job in the office next door to the Treasury Secretary? He says he's never thought about it and has "the greatest job in the world," but would probably take the assignment if asked. "My good friend Liz also had the greatest job in the world [as Harvard Professor, prior to working on establishing the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and then running for Senate], and I guess if she could give up her job for a while I could too."
Written by Dan Freed in New York