Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner's testimony before the House Ways
and Means Committee March 3 would have been hilarious, were the
implications for our economy not so grave. It was his first major
appearance since Feb. 10, when his halting description of a half-baked
plan to bail out banks caused the stock market to plunge by some 400
The Dow dropped only 40 points that day, which Time magazine's Massimo
Calabresi said was a triumph of sorts for Mr. Geithner.
"Sure, he doesn't seem to fill his suit, and he talks too quickly, and
he swallows the ends of his sentences, and he gives the impression of a
grad student taking an oral exam," Mr. Calabresi said. "But he'll be a
hero of the western world world if his plan to subsidize the sale of
toxic assets leads banks back from the brink."
Mr. Geithner didn't talk much about that plan -- whatever it is -- at
that hearing. But he did assure the committee chairman, Rep. Charles
Rangel (D-NY), that he'll crack down on individuals and companies that
try to avoid paying taxes.
Gee, where might he start? Perhaps with himself. Mr. Geithner was
confirmed despite having failed to pay his payroll taxes for four years.
Or perhaps with Rep. Rangel, who failed to pay taxes on income from the
rental of his vacation home in the Dominican Republic.
Or maybe with former Dallas mayor Ron Kirk, who didn't think it
necessary to pay nearly $10,000 in back taxes until President Obama
chose him to be the U.S. Trade Representative.
Or how about Adolfo Carrion, Mr. Obama's choice for "urban czar?" As
the borough president in the Bronx he "often received contributions just
before and after he sponsored money for projects or improved important
zoning changes," the New York Daily News reported.
When he wasn't assuring his fellow tax cheat that he would crack down on
tax cheats, Mr. Geithner was defending President Obama's plans to
nationalize the health care system, and to impose a carbon tax. Neither
would help us out of our current economic troubles. Both would impose
additional burdens on our staggering economy.
The Obama administration's focus on just about everything except the
financial crisis has unnerved billionaire Obama supporters Warren
Buffett and Andrew Grove.
"You can't expect people to unite behind you if you are trying to jam a
whole bunch of things down their throat," the "sage of Omaha" said in a
CNBC interview Monday (March 9.)
"The hopeful enthusiasm that welcomed the Obama administration has given
way to growing worry and frustration," Mr. Grove said in an op-ed in the
Washington Post Wednesday (March 11).
Considering what people on Wall Street think of him now, it's important
to remember the stock market rose nearly 500 points Nov. 22 when word
leaked out Mr. Geithner, then the head of the Federal Reserve Bank of
New York, was Mr. Obama's choice for Treasury. He was thought by
Republicans as well as Democrats to be the indispensable man.
Mr. Geithner is an illustration of the slender reeds on which Washington
reputations are based. He was thought to be a hot shot because he was a
protege of Bush Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, and co-architect of the
Bush bank bailout plan nobody on Capitol Hill seems very happy with
these days. And he had been a protege of Clinton Treasury Secretary
Robert Rubin, whose guidance is chiefly responsible for the ruin of
In a sense Mr. Geithner is the indispensable man, because other than
Bush holdover Stuart Levey, none of the top jobs in Treasury have been
filled. Former Fed Chairman Paul Volcker, an Obama adviser, has called
the situation "shameful." Sir Gus O'Donnell, a planner for the G20
economic summit meeting in London next month, said Wednesday nobody at
Treasury was answering his telephone calls.
Perhaps staffing the Treasury department should have been a higher
priority than establishing a White House Council on Women and Girls.