Opinions are mixed on whether Timothy Geithner will hold his position as Secretary of the Treasury much longer. While I have always liked Geithner personally (he’s an old Asia hand), his leadership in the eyes of many is uncompelling.
The recent revelations that staff members of his at the New York Fed advised AIG to hide material matters from regulators may be the final trigger leading to his departure.
Obama needs to change up his economic team anyway. The President took the advice and counsel of Robert Rubin, Lawrence Summers, Timothy Geithner, and Ben Bernanke and resuscitated Wall Street by pumping hundreds of billions of tax dollars as guarantees and bailouts into the financial sector.
We now have a high stock market but disturbingly job openings today are 50% lower than in 2007. Obama has said that 2010 is going to be a year of focusing on job creation and more serious infrastructure investment.
In my view, jobs and national infrastructure should have been the President’s priorities in 2009 — when he actually had the mandate and financial resources to make deep job-creating infrastructure investments that recurring returns to the American economy and workers over the next generation. But Obama is late to the cause, and future results are in doubt.
To convince American voters and working families he is serious about job creation and more sensible economic policies than he has thus far pursued, he can’t keep Lawrence Summers, Romer, Geithner, and the overwhelmingly neoliberal members of his White House econ team.
Obama can’t expect us to believe that the same team members that he has had working out global macroeconomic deals are the same who can focus on microeconomic issues in specific industries and on the nation’s pathetic jobs portfolio. Leo Hindery throws out some ideas on Huffington Post today on how to get the jobs machine going again, but I can’t imagine Obama’s current team seriously pursuing the Hindery action plan.
Jared Bernstein, chief economist to Vice President Joe Biden, is practically the only one with any serious background in infrastructure and jobs-focused economic policy.
So Obama needs to change the team.
I’ve been asking people to give some thought to who should run the Department of Treasury if and after Timothy Geithner departs. I’ve asked a wide variety of people privately — from the heavy labor to financial to high tech sectors — to share with me (off the record) who should take the helm of America’s economic policy shop.
The suggestions are quite varied, but I wanted to open up the discussion more publicly at The Washington Note and at Huffington Post.
Knee jerk, silly answers can always be fun — but they aren’t serious.
We need someone who can think carefully about changing the economic policy course of the country, who is as economist James K. Galbraith just shared with me “incorruptible”, and who can run a big government operation, and instill national and global confidence in his or her leadership.
I have some good and interesting names — but I’d like to hear from all of you.
Who should be America’s next Treasury Secretary?
— Steve Clemons