Secretary of Bailouts

Artigo do WSJ sobre a escolha de Timothy Geithner para Secretário do Tesouro da futura administração americana (*).

[M]ost of his work in public life has been done in backrooms or as a loyal Sancho Panza. During the Clinton years, he assisted Mr. Summers on various international bailouts. And during the current panic, he has properly deferred in public to Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke or Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson. Now Mr. Geithner will have to become the Administration’s chief financial spokesman, so it will be useful for the Senate to sound him out during confirmation hearings.

All the more so because some of his bailout decisions have been less than successful. Mr. Geithner was the driving force behind the government takeover of insurance giant AIG — a “rescue” that has itself twice had to be rescued with more taxpayer capital. The most frustrating part of the AIG episode has been the New York Fed’s lack of transparency, both about the nature of the “systemic risk” that required the takeover and why it was superior to bankruptcy. This is another subject worthy of confirmation scrutiny, not least as an indication of Mr. Geithner’s standards for future interventions.

Mr. Geithner was also on the Fed’s Open Market Committee when it made its fateful decisions to keep real interest rates negative for so long, fueling the credit mania that has since turned to panic. Those monetary decisions are typically led by the Fed Chairman, but Mr. Geithner never dissented. While a Treasury Secretary doesn’t directly make monetary policy, his private advice can be critical to Fed decisions. This is another area ripe for Senate exploration.

We suppose in that sense there is some rough justice in Mr. Geithner’s nomination. Having been present at the creation of the current mess, he can help clean it up by avoiding some of the same mistakes.

(*) Nos EUA as nomeações o exectivo não são automáticas. Estas só se tornam efectivas após a confirmação do Senado.

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