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January 14, 2013

Geithner’s Tenure Defined by Financial Crisis

In a matter of days, the nation’s Treasury secretary, Timothy F. Geithner, will leave the department he first joined more than two decades ago and re-enter private life for the first time since he was in his 20s.

Looking forward, Mr. Geithner has no plans. A regulator of Wall Street but not a creature of it, he will probably be the least likely former Treasury secretary to land there. “I’m going to take a long time,” he said in the second of two exit interviews, one conducted in the midst of the recent fiscal fight and one just after the news conference on Thursday at which President Obama formally nominated his successor, Jacob J. Lew.

Looking back, he is remarkably sanguine. He is comfortable with his decisions: the policy choices available to him were far from ideal, he said, but his team did the best it could within the realm of the politically possible. “It was a very bad crisis. No playbook. No road map. No clear precedent,” he said. “If we had a different set of constraints, particularly in fiscal policy, then I think that the economic outcome could have been modestly better.””


But he has not always been a popular one. Both Republicans and Democrats have accused him of subverting capitalism and dedicating taxpayer money to “too big to fail” institutions in perpetuity. The left has criticized him for helping “fat cat” bankers instead of regular people, especially underwater homeowners.

“Is the system safer today?” said Dennis M. Kelleher, president of Better Markets, a nonprofit that advocates stricter financial regulations. “The collapse turned an implicit public guarantee into an explicit public guarantee. It is one of the most dramatic changes of federal policy in history and puts too much at stake.””


Read Annie Lowrey’s full New York Times article here

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