Monday, March 9, 2009

Somebody tell Obama: Geithner and "skeleton staff" are "scrambling" to keep up with events

Treasury Secretary Tim Geitner: Indispensable man and one-man band?

I don't know about you, but with the Dow still on its seemingly bottomless plunge, no clear plan yet about how to deal with the "toxic assets" poisoning the financial system, and the recession showing no signs of relenting, I'm not encouraged by this story:

In the six weeks since Mr. Geithner took over as Treasury secretary, he and a skeleton crew of unofficial senior advisers have been racing to make decisions that will shape the future of the banking, insurance, housing and automobile industries.

But even as he maintains a frenetic pace — unveiling plans, testifying before Congress and negotiating new bailouts with the likes of Citigroup, General Motors and the American International Group — there are signs that events are getting ahead of him.

Administration officials say they are postponing their plan to produce a detailed road map for overhauling the nation’s financial regulatory system by April, in time for the Group of 20 meeting in London. Though officials say they will still develop basic principles in time for the meeting, the plan will not include much detail.

Treasury officials are also still scrambling to decide details of their plan to buy up as much as $1 trillion in toxic assets from the nation’s banks, one month after being widely criticized for presenting a plan that lacked any specifics on how it would work.

Analysts say it is far too early to know if Mr. Geithner and his team will be effective. But some worry that political and financial constraints have made them reluctant to grapple with the full magnitude of the crisis.

Indeed, "some" are worried, including me. Part of the problem is the lack of help!

Compounding the strain on the Treasury, almost all the top posts beneath Mr. Geithner are still vacant. Though he has hired about 50 senior advisers — about half the number he hopes to recruit — the White House has become so worried about potential tax problems and other issues in the backgrounds of candidates that it has nominated only a handful of people.


Mr. Geithner, as a result, has been pulled in many directions at once and remains virtually the only public face of the Treasury. He is the sole person who can go before Congress to promote and defend the department’s decisions to provide billions of dollars for General Motors, Chrysler, the nation’s banks or the millions of homeowners facing foreclosure.


To some extent, Mr. Geithner’s staff problems stem from his own failure to pay more than $32,000 in self-employment taxes. That slip-up not only embarrassed the Obama administration, which had prided itself on nominating people with unassailable backgrounds. It also nearly torpedoed his Senate confirmation, and caused White House officials to slow down the background checks for dozens of other nominees.


Of the four major federal departments — state, justice, defense and the Treasury — the Treasury has had the fewest nominees even though it is dealing with probably the most significant problems facing the government.

Geithner is getting to work at 5:30 am to try to stay on top of everything, but the workload is taking a toll:

The strains are showing. Many top Treasury aides often look haggard and acknowledge they are getting by on only a few hours of sleep a night. They often have to split their attention among wildly different projects.

Well, that's not good. Tired, haggard Treasury officials are making decisions that may determine whether you and I have any money left in a few months.

So who's fault is this? And what is being done about it? It's not as if the Obama team didn't know that this was the most important challenge they faced. Obama and the White House have said that was the case almost every day for months. In fact, the President has been criticised for his talk of an impending "catastrophe," if his policies were not embraced and implemented speedily.

Yet, here it is March 9, and Geithner has yet to produce the details of the banking rescue plan he announced a month ago, even though uncertainty about this plan continues to contribute to the bleak financial markets. No wonder if the man is missing the rest of the top tier of Treasury officials.

Mr. President, this is an emergency. Get the man the help he needs before he starts rambling around the Treasury building talking to himself, and the markets go down the drain. No, it wasn't you who caused the crisis. You inherited it. But it is your crisis now.

What do you think? Post a comment.

1 comment:

  1. Top Treasury Department positions to be staffed by OfficeTeam and interns

    WASHINGTON – US Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner has a lot resting on his shoulders: Printing fake money that will still be accepted in world markets, delaying the ramifications of a “spend what you don’t have to buy what you don’t need” culture for another generation and soothing the frayed nerves of the 90% of Americans who have felt no ill effects of Great Depression v2.0 yet continue to respond in lockstep fashion to calamitous headlines urging them to melt gold teeth fillings and stockpile tuna, beans and cash under their mattresses ...

    Top Treasury Department positions to be staffed by OfficeTeam temp service