Barack Obama promised in his first White House press conference on February 9th that Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner would have a rescue plan ready to announce the next day. On February 10th, Geithner showed up with nothing but a string of platitudes and a promise that he would have a plan real soon. The markets tanked as investors realized that the White House had no economic leadership at the top, and the Obama administration pledged to get something quickly.
Time Magazine reports that the plan has been delayed again, and now won’t be ready for another month:
The Administration’s long-awaited plan to save America’s banks is being delayed again, government sources tell Time. Fears of an AIG-like backlash among potential private investors, and the difficulty of creating a model to price toxic assets on the banks’ balance sheets, have both contributed to the delay, the sources say.
The slip is embarrassing for Treasury officials who have been assuring the media and the markets that the plan was coming, first in mid-February, and as recently as March 14 when Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner told Bloomberg TV he would release details soon. A senior Treasury department official says the plan isn’t slipping, but other government officials say it is and could be unveiled anywhere from next week to early April. (Read “Obama’s Challenge: Containing the AIG Bonus Outrage.”)
Facing this latest delay, Administration officials are urging patience and insist they are moving more programs on more fronts faster than anyone has tried to do before. “People want a quick, clean, decisive resolution to this stuff, they want us to just fix it and have it be over with,” says a senior Administration official. “We are moving in a relatively short period of time on a scale that I don’t think you’ve ever seen an Administration do.”
Sorry, but the “math is hard” excuse won’t work here, not for the Barbie Treasury Secretary and not for his Barbie President. The problem is their constant overpromising and underdelivery. Obama insisted that Geithner was the only person for the job because of his extensive knowledge of the issues at hand, and that the need to have him hit the ground running outweighed his tax evasions, which would have disqualified any other nominee for any other position. The Senate bought off on that argument, figuring that they needed a whiz who could provide continuity from his predecessor and mentor, Henry Paulson.
Since then, Geithner and Obama have yet to come up with a plan despite serial promises to do so. It gives the strong impression that Geithner had no idea what he’s doing or what he needs to do. Geithner has failed to meet a host of responsibilities in the two-plus months he’s been at Treasury, including the basics of staffing the office and his legal duty of conducting Financial Stability Oversight Board meetings. Trillions of dollars are passing through an office that is clearly dysfunctional, clearly floundering, and all the Obama administration can do is keep kicking the deadline down the road.
The Senate needs to take a more active role in determining the problems at Treasury. Geithner is obviously not uniquely qualified for this job, he’s incompetent at it. If he can’t meet the legal duties of the office, staff it, and provide a rational plan for the fortunes passing through his hands, let’s get rid of him and find someone more competent to take his place.