Tough times for Timothy Geithner

U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner testifies before the Senate Budget Committee March 12, 2009 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.

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Kai Ryssdal: Great to have you here on this Friday, everybody. It is the 13th of March. And that makes today day number 53 of the Obama administration, a little more than six weeks. Barely enough time for cabinet secretaries to learn their way around the White House, much less figure out how to save the world.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has arguably the second hardest job in this country, behind his boss, of course, and he's doing it without all the help he ought to have. Many of the department's top staff jobs have yet to be filled. Geithner himself is being criticized -- sharply, sometimes too.

You know Washington can be a tough town. And these days Wall Street is an even tougher audience. Marketplace's Steve Henn reports.


Steve Henn: For some of the American public, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner has become the man without a plan.

SNL: I'm Timothy Geithner.

This was Saturday Night Live's opener last weekend -- a Geithner impersonator offering up a new bailout.

SNL: This $420 billion will be placed in a special fund and will go to the first individual who comes up with a workable plan to solve the banking crisis.

And for the past two days, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs has had to defend Geithner and the Treasury Department in his daily briefing.

Robert Gibbs: Whether it's financial stability, home foreclosure recovery and reinvestment, creating jobs, putting money into taxpayers' pockets...

Gibbs argued Geithner has accomplished a tremendous amount. Roger Altman, a former Clinton Treasury official, agrees.

Roger Altman: They have rolled out four huge initiatives in the past 50 days.

The stimulus, revising the bank bailout, a foreclosure plan, and plans to remove bad assets from bank books. But many on Wall Street want more details about that and are getting impatient. And they worry more high-level staff aren't in place to help. But Alice Rivlin at Brookings say moving too fast on any front would be an even bigger mistake.

Alice Rivlin: Those things are bound to take time.

Insiders acknowledge that finding advisers with expertise in complex financial deals who don't have conflicts of interest is hard. But the Treasury Department says it's ahead of previous administrations, filling key slots.

In Washington, I'm Steve Henn for Marketplace.

About the author

Steve Henn was Marketplace’s technology and innovation reporter for the entire portfolio of Marketplace programs until December 2011.

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