Treasury

Geithner Believes "Foreseeable" Is a "Complicated Word"

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As failed Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner prepares for his inevitable separation from employment, his squirming, desperate public relations campaign is providing the country with great entertainment. 

In his appearance with David Gregory on Meet the Press this morning, Geithner bombed like Larry Crowne, but his performance beautifully revealed what a stupid, arrogant, stubborn, entitled, ignorant fool he is. His doomsday ravings were not credible. (Samples: "greater shock than the Great Depression," "off a cliff," and "worst economic storm since the Great Depression.") His constant appeals to the authority of "most business economists" and "credit rating agencies around the world" and even just "the leaders" were unfit for a public official in a free republic. 

His delivery was cramped and creepy. Also condescending: When Gregory pulled up a simple table – demonstrating the non-disputed truths that unemployment has risen by 26 percent, from 7.3 percent to 9.2 percent, since the Obama Administration took office; and that public debt subject to limit has increased from $10.6 trillion to $14.3 trillion, a 35 percent increase, over the same period – Geithner's response was the milk-curdling "David, let me just say that's a ridiculous table."

Geithner, remember when Obama said he'd kill you last?

The peruked secretary's end-of-interview attempt at buddy-buddy jocularity with the simian-jawed NBC newsman was chilling. Pressed to reveal whether he would be sent packing before or after the election, Geithner quibbled over the definition of "foreseeable." I can understand that a man who predicted unemployment would top out at 8 percent would have a special interest in this term, but the bottom line at every copydesk is that you never say "foreseeable future" for the obvious reason that no part of the future is foreseeable.

Even Geithner's diction is distressingly mushmouthed for a Dartmouth grad. 

The substance was even worse than the style. Geithner's claim, "Remember, we have to borrow now 40 cents for every dollar we spend," boomeranged on him by underscoring how out of control federal spending is. It also clashed with his separate claim that the 2008 correction occurred because "Americans borrowed too much…. We were living beyond our means for a long period of time." 

Geithner even managed to let that last bit of truth – that the credit unwind was preceded by unprecedented inflation in credit and credit-dependent assets – ripen into falsehood. The Treasury secretary claimed, "People are going back to living within their means. They're spending less as a share of income; they're saving more." In fact, personal saving as a percentage of disposable personal income was 6.4 percent in June 2010. In May of this year [pdf] it was down to 5 percent. The personal savings rate has bounced around by a percentage point or two since Obama took office. As I have noted before, the data indicate, at best, a trivial increase in savings which began under the previous administration.

And as always, Geithner's biggest troubles come during those rare instances when he unwittingly emits truth. The mythical summers of recovery, and the whole Keynesian consensus, burn up in this admission: "We don't have the ability, because of the overhang in housing and the problems in the financial system, to engineer artificially a return to recovery." 

It's indicative of President Obama's lack of personal compassion that he has not simply let Geithner leave office to spend more time with his family, rather than making him go through more rounds of public humiliation. But I'm not going to complain about any spectacle that holds my enemies up for global ridicule. Reproach and everlasting shame sit mocking in your plume, Geithner. Shame, and eternal shame, nothing but shame. 

Update: Thanks to reader Banjos for sending a link to the interview, at the urging of Au H20.