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This is my first real blog post this year. I would like to wish everyone a very happy 2013, and hope that you had a relaxing and happy holidays.
Yesterday during the nomination of Jack Lew as the next treasury secretary, President Obama congratulated outgoing secretary Tim Geithner by saying, “When the history books are written, Tim Geithner is going to go down as one of our finest Secretaries of the Treasury”. The president stopped a long applause from the audience with the remark, “All right, don’t embarrass him. On a personal note, Tim has been a wonderful friend and a dependable advisor throughout these last four years. There’s an unofficial saying over at Treasury — no peacocks, no jerks, no whiners. That would be a good saying for all of Washington — (laughter) — no peacocks, no jerks, no whiners. Few embody that ideal better than Tim Geithner.”
This brings me to two thoughts. First, was Tim Geithner really one of the finest secretaries of the treasury?
The president praises all his outgoing members of his cabinet, but this one for Geithner was extraordinary. We obviously should not take his words for granted. Most opinions on such an issue will be biased towards recent history. Felix Salmon has a blog post on Tim Geithner’s legacy. My personal opinion is not at all important here, since I have no knowledge of the performances of the 74 treasury secretaries that preceded Geithner.
I will still go ahead and say that I think he did a pretty decent job. Of course there has been a lot of criticism about his favors to the Wall Street. A particularly scathing criticism comes from an insider, former FDIC chairperson Sheila Bair, who thinks that the bank bailouts were staged to save Citigroup, and other banks did not require the capital injections, calling him “bailouter-in-chief“. I think there may be some truth to these assertions. There were philosophical differences between Bair and Geithner on what was the most effective way out of the crisis. It is very much possible that Geithner thought bank bailouts was truly the least evil of all alternatives in front of him at that time, and because such a strategy did not make sense to Sheila Bair owing to their philosophical differences, she thought there could be an ulterior motive to it. However, such accusations are particularly serious and should be examined closely because the criticisms are not so much on his competence as on his intentions. In my mind (and most others), allegations of mala fide intentions are much more serious than allegations of mere lack of competence. The burden of proof is higher for more serious allegations.
I am an outsider to the world of Washington and don’t pay really close attention to politics and therefore I do not have the tools to delve deeper into the above allegations. One bit of information that I do recall is the list of the biggest donations to the Obama and Romney campaign for the Nov. 2012 elections (see chart below). An examination of the list shows that the Wall Street was very much opposed to President Obama’s re-election. Even though it was well known that Tim Geithner would not continue even if President Obama was re-elected, this antagonization of Wall street makes me believe that the that Geithner (or Obama’s team) did not favor Wall Street as much as the latter expected him to. This is by no means the best or the only piece of evidence in this matter. I hope we find out more about the truth.
Now, I move on to my second thought: I had some inkling about what “no peacocks, no jerks, no whiners” means, but checked out the Urban Dictionary (for slang definitions) just to be sure.
Peacock: A guy who acts normal around people he knows/is used to but gets loud and starts acting like a douche (similar to a peacock in mating season) when around, but not limited to, attractive women. This can also apply to women but that term would be defined as shecock.
Jerk: An insensitive, selfish, ignorant, cocky person who is inconsiderate.
Whiner: Someone who won’t stop complaining about everybody else, but yet gets mad when they hear other people complain. They usually pay more attention how other people make them feel than to what they are actually saying.
It’s a phrase I have come to love. I am not sure if I do embody these ideals (I hope I do), but I certainly expect people around me to :-). It’s coming to a wall near me.