Why Geithner's getting so much grief

U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner testifies before the Congressional Oversight Panel of the Troubled Asset Relief Program on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.

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KAI RYSSDAL:Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, as you may know, came to his current job from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. And it is in that capacity that the House Oversight Committee would like to have a little chat with him. Lawmakers want to hear more about Mr. Geithner's role in the latest scandal involving the insurance company AIG. Some e-mails that show the New York Fed asked AIG to stay mum on its payouts to the big Wall Street banks, even after AIG got its taxpayer bailouts.

The White House said today that Mr. Geithner wasn't involved in any cover up. But this is just the latest thorn in the secretary's side. Marketplace's Jeremy Hobson reports now on why he is getting so much grief.


Jeremy Hobson: Critics on the Left say Geithner may have worked in government most of his career, but he's too tied to Wall Street. Blogger Arianna Huffington has been hammering him since March. She says he's a good guy...

Arianna Huffington: But if you come from the point of view of putting Wall Street in the center of everything, you make wrong decisions. So that's really all that's happening. It's a real reflection of how he sees the world.

For the Right, bashing Geithner's become a campaign tactic. Congressman Rob Simmons is running as a Republican to replace Senator Chris Dodd in Connecticut. He's made Geithner a main issue in his campaign.

Rob Simmons: You know, he's been accused of being too close to Wall Street. That in it of itself is not a disqualifying factor, as long as there's no quid pro quo in what's taking place. But transparency is something that was promised in the election last fall. I don't think there's been transparency in his role as Treasury secretary.

So not transparent enough, too close to Wall Street... Stanford economist Michael Boskin understands those criticisms, but he says Geithner's not the problem.

Michael Boskin: He has done some sensible things and he's adjusted when things haven't worked out and I give him credit for that.

Boskin served as head of the Council of Economic Advisers under the first President Bush. He says any Treasury secretary would have a tough job right now.

Boskin: Secretary Geithner came in under very difficult circumstances. The economy was in a deep recession, the financial crisis was at its height. And there's still -- almost a year later, he's not fully staffed.

The White House said today the president still has full confidence in Timothy Geithner. But it's worth remembering, the last two presidents went through three Treasury secretaries each.

In New York, I'm Jeremy Hobson for Marketplace.

About the author

Jeremy Hobson is host of Marketplace Morning Report, where he looks at business news from a global perspective to prepare listeners for the day ahead.

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