Category Archives: dept of treasury
BY VICTORIA MCGRANE The U.S. financial system is stronger “by almost any measure” than at the nadir of the 2008 financial crisis and also before it began, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said in an op-ed article to be published Wednesday in The Wall Street Journal. As the one-year anniversary of the sweeping law Congress passed in response to that crisis approaches Thursday, Mr. Geithner vowed he would recommend President Barack Obama veto any bills passed by Congress that would “undermine” the changes put forward by that law, known as …
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Geithner: US Financial System ‘Much Stronger’
By John E. Sununu ‘I have never been in banking.” Those words sounded pretty defensive when Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner uttered them two years ago. The financial crisis had left nerves raw, and Damon Silvers, my colleague on the congressional panel watching over the federal bailout, had just referred to Geithner’s supposed banking background. Silvers pushed on, suggesting, “It was a very long time ago.” The secretary was visibly irritated. “Actually never.” Silvers pressed a third time, as though Geithner were some kind of amnesiac: “Investment banking, I meant.” It might have been simpler if from the beginning, Geithner had just shouted out the complete story – “I’m a lifelong bureaucrat!” – and been done with it. (His polite attempts to make the point over the crosstalk fell on deaf ears.) Throughout a distinguished career with the Clinton administration, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and the Treasury Department, Geithner has been a policymaker, a regulator, and an overseer. But he has never had to make a business work. Different motivations The same is true of most of President Obama’s cabinet secretaries. Consider Shaun Donovan at Housing and Urban Development, Steven Chu at Energy, Ray LaHood at Transportation, and Gary Locke, who just left Commerce. They have spent almost every day of their adult lives as academics, government staffers, or elected officials. That doesn’t make them bad people, but it means they have no firsthand experience with how their policies might affect businesses’ investment and economic growth. There is no substitute for the private-sector demands of hiring and firing, managing cash flow, and putting capital to work. By comparison, this experience has been abundant in previous administrations. Critics might contend that putting former private-sector CEOs in the president’s cabinet places the fox in the henhouse. But it’s unlikely such executives would expose themselves to the headaches of public service if they weren’t genuinely motivated by the call to it. All successful CEOs have achieved financial security. They view any government role as temporary, are driven by the challenge of improving organizational performance, and focus on completing the job with their reputation intact. That’s no small task. Bureaucrats behave very differently from private-sector managers because their motivations are different. Permanent bureaucrats, no matter how senior, worry about their next job. They worry about angering the boss; they worry about angering their employees, for nothing is more vicious than an office full of disgruntled bureaucrats; they worry about angering the voters; and they worry about bad press, which could result in any and all of the above. That’s a lot of worries that might easily distract from actually developing good policy. Of course, that never seems to stand in the way of pushing out a few more rules. To the contrary, a careerist will search for initiatives that show his or her bureaucracy “in action” – while never questioning its role, relevance, or mission. Such bureaucrats make their living writing and enforcing new regulations that, all too often, are far removed from common sense. As a result, the Department of Transportation continues to pursue regulations to restrict the shipment of lithium batteries as “hazardous” cargo, even though little or no evidence exists that they present any unique danger to transportation. As any consumer knows, these batteries are everywhere, from computers to smartphones. The costs of the regulations are large; the benefits, quite unclear. Similarly, the Environmental Protection Agency presses ahead with demands that New York City spend $1.6 billion for a microbial treatment system that would prevent 100 cases of intestinal disorders each year. Think about that. The city could instead give $1,000 to anyone who gets the cryptosporidium infection and be covered for 16,000 years. Tyrannies of all kinds Obama can write all the executive orders he wants about “reviewing regulatory costs” and “streamlining government.” But few in his cabinet can distinguish a well-crafted and necessary rule from a waste of time and money. With unemployment at 9.2 percent and rising, he needs advisers experienced in business. Countries such as France and Switzerland handed the reins of government to a class of professional bureaucrats decades ago. The United States has a choice. We also have a constitutional foundation designed to resist tyrannies of all kinds. We’ll always have bureaucracies, but bureaucracies led by bureaucrats might be too much of a bad thing. John E. Sununu is a former senator from New Hampshire. He wrote this for the Boston Globe.
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A bureaucratic presidency