Political Leadership: Tim Geithner Style
by Melvyn_Fein
February 20, 2012 10:11 AM | 5139 views | 1 1 comments | 282 282 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
A recent interchange between Tim Geithner and Paul Ryan was very illuminating.  When congressman Ryan asked the Secretary of the Treasury why president Obama’s budget did not address the growing federal deficit, the latter responded that it did.

According to Geithner, the deficit would not be growing as a proportion of the gross domestic product and hence was sustainable.  To this Ryan responded with a chart that showed federal expenses would, in fact, grow astronomically during the out years.

Amazingly, Geithner agreed with this assessment.  He admitted that, as the population aged, the numbers of people dependent upon social security and Medicare would swell to such proportions that the government did not have the resources to meet its pledges.

So why, Ryan asked, wasn’t Geithner doing something about this?  To this, the secretary answered by admitting that he was only concerned with the next four years.  What happens beyond this did not matter to him because he and the president found the Republican suggestions for fixing this problem unacceptable.

Now let’s replay that again slowly.  The Obama administration’s point man on the economy said that whatever disasters impend after the Democrats leave office are not his affair.  He and his president were not going to make any proposals about how to prevent a disaster that they too see coming.

What Geithner was saying is that it is up to Republicans to fix what is broken.  He is Secretary of the Treasury and Barack is President, but they cannot be expected to provide leadership when a catastrophe impends.

Let us for the moment agree that the deficit will not get worse in proportional terms under Democratic stewardship.  This assumption is grounded in a rosy economic scenario and a truckload of fiscal gimmicks—but no matter.  Let us cinfine ourselves to dealing with the demographic calamity that looms just over the horizon.

If there really is such a problem, why aren’t Geithner and his associates doing anything about it?  The answer is obvious, and it is the same one that explains why the Democratic Senate has not produced a budget in over three years.  Geithner and his friends simply do not want to propose anything that might be politically unpopular.

The current administration intends to force the Republicans to be the bad guys.  Whatever proposal their opponents make will be demagogued.  Geithner knows this.  Obama knows this.  But they do not care.  Their number one priority is re-election—and the nation be damned.

Charles Krauthammer has called this a scandal.  And he is absolutely right.  Krauthammer has argued that Obama is not avoiding leadership because he misunderstands the problem.  To the contrary, he too recognizes what is at stake, but the welfare of the nation does not enter his calculations.

Geithner’s congressional testimony confirms this.   He too knows what is at stake, but blithely dismisses it as not his business.  Rather it is that of people who, as of this moment, do not have the power to do anything about it.

The question is now: How will the American public respond?  My guess is that most people will not even notice.  Even though they are the one’s being thrown under the bus, a majority will not perceive their approaching injuries until they are in the hospital.

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February 21, 2012
I wonder where Ryan was when Bush was running up $5 trillion in deficits.
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