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August 3, 2011

Geithner going? You might want to ask him to stay

There’s lots of speculation about whether Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner will resign now that the debt ceiling deal has been done.  He’s rumored to want to go back to New York due to fatigue and his family residing there while his son finishes high school.

While some people will undoubtedly say “good riddance,” anyone who cares about financial reform better ask a fundamental question, which may cause them to ask him to stay.  The question is “who is Geithner likely to be replaced with?”

All the signs suggest it would be someone worse, maybe, much, much worse.  First, anyone the President nominates will have to get 60 votes in the Senate, meaning a minimum of 7 Republican Senators.  Second, not only are there only 53 Democratic Senators, a number of them (to put it kindly) aren’t exactly friends of financial reform.  Also, more than a few are in very, very tough re-election races, which is going to make getting their votes for a reformer more difficult (even assuming the President would nominate one).  Third, the 2012 Presidential race is in full swing and the President’s political opponents are focused on defeating him, which doesn’t include confirming a helpful Treasury Secretary.  Fourth, campaign fundraising is already at a fevered pitch, by the White House and everyone in Congress, Democrats and Republicans alike.  And, many, most, all of them are fundraising from Wall Street and the financial industry and their friends and allies – these are not people interested in a Treasury Secretary committed to financial reform.  

With all his faults, Geithner is committed to financial reform, yes, in his way.  We disagree with him and his Treasury Department on many issues and aren’t shy about saying so.  But, he worked hard for the Dodd Frank Act (yes, including against some important provisions that didn’t make it into the final bill) and a big part of his legacy will be whether or not financial reform is real and prevents or mitigates the next, inevitable financial crisis.  

People should think long and hard about who is likely to replace Geithner if he were to go.  The pro-financial reform position just might be to insist that he stay.  May I suggest, “Hell no, don’t go!” 



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