The Return of Hyman Minsky
Bush Administration Officials Let Off the Hook Because They Were Only Giving Orders...

David Cho Is Unfair to Tim Geithner: The Senate Is the Problem

David Cho writes:

At Geithner's Treasury, Key Decisions on Hold: [H]itches that have slowed a host of important policy actions in the four months since Timothy F. Geithner became Treasury secretary... bogged down because critical decisions about how to do so aren't being made... unresolved issues are piling up in part because of vacancies... ad-hoc management, which is dominated by a small band of Geithner's counselors who coordinate rescue initiatives but lack formal authority... involvement by the White House in Treasury affairs has further muddied the picture....

Geithner said in interviews that some of the department's internal difficulties result from the intense pressure on officials to develop a raft of rescue initiatives in a very short time. "We were just putting enormous pressure on these people to put in place and execute this comprehensive set of programs," Geithner said. "In a crisis, the most important thing is to show the capacity for credible initiative that is actually going to fix the problem. That's why we are trying to do so much so early." He added, "It could get tough at times . . . but I think they are doing a great job in that context, and they are working 24 hours a day to put out A-plus policy."

Still, some lawmakers and government officials said Geithner needs to be a stronger manager. "No one knows how to get decisions made," said a senior government official familiar with the Treasury's inner workings. "Major decisions can happen very fast at the top, and then after that there are tons of detail and nuances that have to get worked out without clear chains of command. Either the seats are unfilled... or you have to answer to a half a dozen counselors running around..."

Let us be clear: until the Senate confirms an Assistant Secretary, there is no Assistant Secretary to make decisions. Decisions have to go up to the Secretary--in which case he has to ask one of his six roving counselors what they think the lay of the land is. And these six counselors cannot by the nature of their job have portfolios--you would need fifteen of them, and if there were fifteen of them the Senate would be extremely jealous because they would effectively be assistant secretaries.

The problem is not Tim. The problem is not Larry. The problem is not the NEC or the White House. The problem is the Senate.