Sunday, March 22, 2009

Reviewing Obama's Treasury

I have a Republican friend working in the financial services field who detests Geithner. I am non-committal. First, I think Obama wants and needs a technician and I think Geithner fits that bill. Second, taking the team of rivals analogy to it logical conclusion: not all of Lincoln's cabinet stayed with him though both terms, and I expect changes.

So I have been noticing some reporting on Obama's economic team and here some of the interesting points.

"Geithner and Summers are also taking the lead in shaping the Obama administration policies for creating millions of jobs through the economic stimulus plan, rescuing the banking system, revitalizing the housing market, restructuring the auto industry and overhauling financial regulation.

Obama's decision to make Summers and Geithner the key players in such a wide-ranging agenda has left some within the government concerned that they will be unable to handle so many complex issues at once. Geithner already was widely criticized on Wall Street for being too vague when he announced the financial rescue package last month.

Geithner said the crisis has left the administration little choice but to tackle every problem head-on. Last week alone, Geithner ran from meeting to meeting to craft a new rescue deal for Citigroup, talk with governors on the economic stimulus package, co-host a summit on the nation's fiscal issues, work with lawmakers on regulatory reform, refine a plan to help homeowners, discuss a major upcoming summit with his foreign counterparts and roll out the details of a 'stress test' for banks."

***


Former Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr., who hailed from the Wall Street giant Goldman Sachs, ran his agency more like a corporation. He often sought quick decisions, the officials said, and was faulted for lurching from one plan to the next. Paulson also operated fairly independently, with little White House interference.


Geithner and Summers prefer a more academic environment, where lengthy debates are fostered within the Treasury and between the agency and other key administration officials.


Some government officials expressed worries about the approach of Geithner and Summers to the financial rescue, saying it has left investors unsettled because they do not understand the administration's intentions. But the decision to withhold details was made consciously by the two men, who believed it was more important to come up with the right plan than to respond to every move of the markets, administration officials said.


Financial Gurus Geithner, Summers Get Another Chance - washingtonpost.com:
"Rubin pinpointed all the right issues. And yet when pressed in interviews about a new financial architecture to reduce these systemic risks, he would shy away. Famously, he balked at the recommendation from Brooksley Born to regulate derivatives at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

Summers and Geithner had similar worries about systemic risk, and the same phobia about frightening the markets. Their skill was in crisis management -- the Mexican peso crisis in 1994, the Asian financial crisis in 1997, the Russian default and Long-Term Capital Management collapse in 1998. They were deft in nudging the markets away from meltdown, and that reinforced their confidence that ad hoc policies, negotiated privately with Wall Street leaders, were better than clunky regulatory regimes."
I think the point of Staffing Shortage Hinders Treasury's Progress has been made over and over the past week:
A shortage of staff at the Treasury Department is taking a toll on its ability to deal with a financial crisis that continues to deepen in scope and complexity, government and industry officials said.

Every key position within the Treasury, with the exception of Secretary Timothy F. Geithner, remains vacant or awaits confirmation

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