Through long and ignominious tradition, the US has selected people for cabinet and top departmental leadership positions based on a combination of nepotism and party loyalty. Products of this system include such luminaries as the hapless former FEMA director, Michael Brown, a man singularly unqualified for the important position he filled. But sometimes there are qualified cabinet nominees installed for all the wrong reasons. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner is a useful example.
Not many people argue that he doesn’t have good qualifications, at least on paper. He is exceptionally well-educated and filled several top or near-the-top posts in a variety of capacities, including Chairman of the New York Federal Reserve. But, it’s precisely his former position as FedChair that is troubling.
Federal Reserve chairs are intricately tied to Wall Street movers and shakers. It’s inevitable that architects of monetary policy be on a first name basis with CEOs from Goldman Sachs or Citibank. In fact, this isn’t an altogether bad thing. A “friendly” suggestion sometimes goes farther than a kick in the pants when you’re trying to get something done. But sometimes, the relationship gets a little too chummy.
Lassie, Timmy’s Fallen Down the Well!
Unfortunately, Timmy fell down the well when he “solved” the financial crisis in favor of Wall St. After all, that’s the way he usually did things in his previous job. He relied on what he knew instead of what he needed to learn and left Main St. holding the empty bag. He forgot that those who regulate and those who are regulated need some semblance of an adversarial relationship. Otherwise, those being regulated will steal you blind.
Timmy has some other bad traits too. He frequently promises things and then fails to follow up. In the beginning, he agreed that the one thing that would happen for sure was cracking down on greedhead CEOs and making sure the money being handed out was being spent on increasing lending. Good promises maybe, but a distinct lack of meaningful execution.
Geithner also has a penchant for secrecy that would make the Bushies blush. It appears he’s made side deals and bad deals and protected himself by telling the beneficiaries of the deals to keep mum. Though there may have been some rational reasons for the secrecy – for example, preventing a run on banks – had he not made the deals there would’ve been no reason to hide.
Bring Us the Head of Timothy Geithner
Many are calling for Geithner’s head – as well they should, but not for the same reasons. Those in favor of a laissez-faire approach say can him because his policies are just wrong. Others don’t like his cozy relationship with Wall St. Still, others don’t like the secrecy. His fan base is dwindling rapidly and soon the Bailer-Outer-in-Chief will have to ask him to leave to “take on new challenges”.
It’s true that cabinet members serve at the pleasure of the President, but we might be better off if there wasn’t so much turnover from administration to administration. We’d certainly be much better off if cabinet members not only had the proper experience, but also the right mix of friends and adversaries.
Imagine it, a Treasury Secretary who did something other than rub elbows with the wingtips and remembered that he works for the people, not the corporations. We could even start with the no-brainer positions. How about a Labor secretary who was previously something other than a CEO – a labor representation, what a concept? Or, perhaps an EPA director who did something other than work as a lawyer for a strip mining company? And while we’re at it, let’s set some rules for how long key positions can remain open. Isn’t it a bit disingenuous to hold up a nominee for TSA head and then complain the confirmation is taking too long?
It’s time to start cleaning house and Geithner is a good starting point. Let’s just remember his successor should be a little more adversarial and a little less chummy with those who stand to benefit most.
- Geithner – you arrogant rich Wall Street Ass! AND Obama with you for supporting him! (iflizwerequeen.com)
- Tim Geithner’s Very Bad Week (blogs.wsj.com)
- Economic Outrage du Jour: Emails Exposed (dailykos.com)
- David Sirota: Stunning Comments from the White House on the Burgeoning Geithner/AIG Scandal (huffingtonpost.com)
- The AIG fiasco keeps getting worse (money.cnn.com)
- David Sirota: After Helping Gordon Gekko Evade the SEC, Will Geithner Finally Now Be Fired? (huffingtonpost.com)
- Barney Frank: I Want Hearings On Geithner’s Role In AIG (huffingtonpost.com)
- Past time for Geithner to go (mydd.com)