This almost qualifies as satire, except that Zach Goldfarb seems to be serious, as does the Post in publishing this fawning profile of Barack Obama’s last remaining economic adviser from the start of his administration. Goldfarb asserts that Tim Geithner has increased his influence after a disastrous start to his tenure as Secretary of the Treasury, but that may well be addition by subtraction as everyone else has bailed on Obamanomics:
Geithner has not only survived but quietly gained influence, which he has used to press President Obama to curb the nation’s soaring debt even at the expense of spending that might more directly spur employment.
His success at driving the agenda signals his status as the president’s closest economic counselor. With the departure this summer of Austan Goolsbee as chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, Geithner will be the last remaining member of the president’s original economic team and, with Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke, one of the two remaining architects of the great banking bailout that began in 2008, even before Obama’s election.
Geithner, who was once a registered Republican and then an independent, has a faith in the marketplace that puts him at odds with many of Obama’s traditional Democratic allies, whose skepticism about markets seemed vindicated by the financial crisis. His debut on Obama’s team was also shaky. He faced questions about whether he had properly paid all his taxes, and his initial public defense of the administration’s plan for rescuing the financial industry was uninspired, prompting anxiety in the markets.
But over the past year, he has fared better, especially at pushing his viewpoint in internal White House debates. While forces outside the White House — in particular, Republican lawmakers — have helped turn Washington’s attention to the nation’s debt, Geithner’s efforts inside the White House have shaped how Obama confronts this defining moment. At stake in the months ahead are the size of government, the generosity of the nation’s safety net, the taxes people will pay and the debt that will weigh on future generations.
“This defining moment”? Which one? Obama has been in office for almost 29 months, and his policies have brought 28 months of unemployment above 8%, most of those above 9%. Obama himself rejects the idea of a defining moment, spending his entire presidency blaming his predecessor for the failure of his own policies, or lately on “headwinds.”
Geithner hasn’t exactly done much better. The biggest task Geithner has undertaken was management of TARP, and that hasn’t exactly covered the administration in glory. Its special Inspector General reported that Geithner’s management under TARP destroyed “tens of thousands of jobs” by closing GM and Chrysler dealerships, for instance, and warned a year ago that TARP and other Obamanomics policies would prolong the housing market depression. A whistleblower showed how badly Geithner’s TARP team bungled the HAMP program, which was supposed to alleviate the housing market’s woes but instead wasted a great deal of taxpayer money for no good results.
Granted, all these issues came to light last summer. But with all economic indicators breaking sharply downward now, it seems a strange time for the Post to offer Geithner a victory lap. The only reason Geithner even qualifies is because all of his colleagues from the President’s original group of economic advisers have wisely fled the track.