Last week, the Washington Post's Stephen Stromberg blogged about how sick and tired he was of poor Tim Geithner being accused of having connections and entanglements to Wall Street, and has decided that people who pen so-called "anti-Geithner diatribes" (like we do, apparently!) should be quiet and rate him on whether the "policy" he devises "is credible," and not on whether he's too closely tied to the people who will be governed by those policies. I thought that you can do both things! I also thought that the two things might be connected! But Stromberg objected, saying, "Indicting Geithner by associating him with vaguely defined, almost certainly fictitious corporate conspiracies is a cheap shot."
He's really going to be cheesed at the New York Times, then, and their Homerian cheap shot testament to all of Geithner's "vaguely defined" and "almost certainly fictitious" associations!
Stromberg, writing in defense, mainly strove to assert that Geithner had been a dedicated public servant all his life with no connections to the financial kingpins. Stromberg cited a "heated exchange" with Damon Silvers over the matter in his post:
Take this heated exchange yesterday between Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and Damon Silvers, the associate general counsel of the AFL-CIO and a member of a panel supervising the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP).
At an oversight hearing, the AFL-CIOer prefaced his final question for the Treasury secretary with a dose of guilt-by-association, indicating that he practiced law, while Geithner was "in banking." Geithner wouldn't let Silvers finish. He's never been in banking, the Treasury secretary bristled.
A long time ago, perhaps?
Never done that, either.
In fact, Geithner interjected, he's been in public service his whole career. Silvers conceded and went on with his question.
I'm pretty sure that neither The Ford Foundation or Kissinger And Associates, where Geithner has worked, are public sector firms, but this is beside the point. Geithner has spent the past five or so years as the President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. To the untrained eye, that position can sound sort of "public servanty." But here's what today's NYT exegesis says about it:
When the New York Fed was looking for a new president, both former secretaries were advisers to the bank's search committee and supported Mr. Geithner's candidacy. [Robert] Rubin's seal of approval carried particular weight because he was by then a senior official at Citigroup.
Mr. Weill, Citigroup's architect, was a member of the New York Fed board when Mr. Geithner arrived. "He had a baby face," Mr. Weill recalled. "He didn't have a lot of experience in dealing with the industry."
But, he added, "He quickly earned the respect of just about everyone I know. His knowledge, his willingness to listen to people."
At the New York Fed, top executives of global financial giants fill many seats on the board. In recent years, board members have included the chief executives of Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase, as well as top officials of Lehman Brothers and industrial companies like General Electric.
In theory, having financiers on the New York Fed's board should help the president be Washington's eyes and ears on Wall Street. But critics, including some current and former Federal Reserve officials, say the New York Fed is often more of a Wall Street mouthpiece than a cop.
In other words, Geithner was hand-selected to oversee the people that did the selecting. And so, a cozy relationship was born! But Stromberg seemed to feel that there was ample evidence of Geithner's purity of soul:
Part of Geithner's appeal to the Obama camp is that it's pretty hard to accuse him of being a tool of corporate America, a shill for big finance, or whatever alarmist moniker you prefer, since he's been taking home relatively tiny paychecks of one type or another his whole career. So it's a little astonishing that this Geithner-as-Wall-Street-servant meme still has life -- and in an oversight panel on the substance of TARP policy, no less.
Yes. Those 'relatively tiny paychecks!" Why according to Bloomberg News, in 2008, Geithner earned a paupers wage!
Geithner, confirmed by the Senate yesterday, earned $411,200 in 2008 and the first two weeks this year as president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. As the country's 75th Treasury secretary, Geithner makes an annual salary of $191,300, the Treasury's Web site says.
Really! It's appalling that we expect people to be able to live on just a few hundreds of thousands of dollars. Was there any silver lining for this miserable life of public service to which Geithner could cling?
One consolation may be a $434,668 severance payment from the New York Fed that Geithner listed as an asset on his disclosure form, released today in Washington. The value of Geithner's holdings ranged between $770,000 and $1.8 million.
Anyway, that Times piece is eight pages of Tim Geithner having lunch with everyone who runs a bank on Wall Street, on and on, forever, driving home a singular point:
An examination of Mr. Geithner's five years as president of the New York Fed, an era of unbridled and ultimately disastrous risk-taking by the financial industry, shows that he forged unusually close relationships with executives of Wall Street's giant financial institutions.
What a cheap shot!