Daniel W. Drezner

Tim Geithner is only one man

During the first month of the Obama administration, there have been a few proposals coming from the Treasury Department, and it’s safe to say that markets have not been too thrilled about them.  A large part of that is because the proposals are so vague and opaque that even Felix Salmon is having difficulty interpreting them.  To ...

During the first month of the Obama administration, there have been a few proposals coming from the Treasury Department, and it's safe to say that markets have not been too thrilled about them.  A large part of that is because the proposals are so vague and opaque that even Felix Salmon is having difficulty interpreting them

To be fair to Geithner, however, it's not like he has a lot of help.  Check out this Treasury web page listing all of the political appointees at Treasury. 

ABC's Matthew Jaffe reported in fuller depth on this problem earlier in the week: 

During the first month of the Obama administration, there have been a few proposals coming from the Treasury Department, and it’s safe to say that markets have not been too thrilled about them.  A large part of that is because the proposals are so vague and opaque that even Felix Salmon is having difficulty interpreting them

To be fair to Geithner, however, it’s not like he has a lot of help.  Check out this Treasury web page listing all of the political appointees at Treasury. 

ABC’s Matthew Jaffe reported in fuller depth on this problem earlier in the week: 

Treasury has not moved quickly enough to fill key positions — such as deputy secretary, various undersecretary posts, and general counsel — which may have contributed to a lack of details in Treasury’s plans, which in turn caused a dive in the stock market.

"If the secretary had a full staff he would’ve been in a stronger position to work out the details, so I’m sure that has been part of the problem," West said….

Some analysts believe Geithner is suffering from the lack of a complete staff at his disposal.

"It’s an overwhelming job even if you have a full staff, and that’s certainly not yet the case," said Rob Nichols, president of the Financial Services Forum.

Nichols, a former Treasury spokesman, estimated that right now Geithner "probably has 10 or 20 percent of the political appointees around him that he ultimately will have."

"Treasury is not moving fast enough," West said. "Given all of the enormous economic and banking challenges that we face, we really need a full team on the field."

The story gives a couple of possible reasons — the new ethics rules, difficulties with vetting — but they don’t really pass the smell test.  What I don’t understand is why the Obama White House is not making this staffing issue its first, second, and third priorities right now.  Given the gargantuan tasks facing Treasury right now, I guarantee that the deputy and undersecretary positions at 1500 Pennsylvania Ave. are far more important than the Secretary of Commerce.

I woked at Treasury during the last transition, when it took close to six months to get the Deputy Secretary confirmed.  It was…. a difficult time, to say the least.  And that was when countries like Argentina and Turkey were in trouble — not all of the the OECD and the BRICs. 

Paul Volcker is pretty angry about this — as well he should be.  But the person he should be angry at is his boss. 

Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at Tufts University’s Fletcher School. He blogged regularly for Foreign Policy from 2009 to 2014. Twitter: @dandrezner

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