Sunday, March 14, 2010

Tim Geithner: Going Vogue

It will take a while, but you'll find him if you look hard. Page past the metal-clad Gucci model...

Past the the starved-looking girl in the Juicy Couture ad (note to Juicy Couture marketing execs: nothing juicy about anorexia!)...

Past Kate Moss wearing little more than a purse in a cab...

Past the spread on "the Warrior Way" (which has nothing to do with warriors and everything to do with "tattered minis strapped with shoulder armor and breastplates")...

Past the story on Tina Fey (but before the pic-heavy story on Robert Pattison)...

And there you'll find him.

Tim Geithner going Vogue, "on the money," spilling his guts about the bailout, all in the March issue of Vogue magazine.

Who needs the New Yorker and Atlantic profiles when Vogue is there to chat with the US Treasury Secretary about TARP and bonuses and all the other topics so dear to the hearts of Vogue readers?

The article opens with this:


"If last year's bailout of the financial industry caused you to start muttering words like investment banker and robber baron in the same sentence, it may cheer you to know that Timothy Geithner, the man responsible for crafting much of that bailout, agrees with you.

"'I am,' he says, seated in his Washington, D.C. office, an intimidatingly ornate room worthy of a Hogwarts headmaster, 'incredibly angry at what happened to our country.'"

Truly, he looks a little pissed - or kind of angry - or bemused in the pic they use to visualize the Secretary for us.

But even in Vogue, Tim Geithner seems to have a hard time conjuring up the look that suggests "incredibly angry."

Frankly, when I see a profile of Geithner in Vogue magazine, I see a White House press organization desperate to rehabilitate the Secretary's image. And when I see how Vogue describes the Secretary, I think this profile was a bit of a mistake all around:

"A lithe and athletic 48 years old, Geithner, who was named one of the 100 most beautiful people by People magazine (it may have helped that his brother works for the publication), has the the kind of looks that can go either way: Half an inch one way he's John F. Kennedy; half an inch the other he's Lyle Lovett."

God help us! Did not need to Vogue to help us visualize the Treasury Secretary as a JFK/Lyle Lovett combo!

Why Vogue? Are the Elle Woods of the world truly interested in what Geithner has to say? Are they wondering why their dollar is not buying as much Gucci any more? Or will they just page past Geithner in search of Robert Pattison pix?

Do Vogue readers really want the answers to why the economy crashed? Here's Geithner, on the "irksome aspect" of being blamed for the collapse:

"'Think of all the stuff that burned first,' he says. 'Fannie and Freddie, the investment banks, AIG, the monoline insurance companies – it was their collapse that broght the system to the point of panic, but those things were outside the scope of the Fed's jurisdiction. They all got dumped on us when they went bad, but we had no authority up front.'"

There are people who once thought the head of the Federal Reserve of NY should have been able to wield some power over the events that led to the crash. But apparently, according to Geithner, it was a position without much ability to impact the financial sector at all until all hell broke loose.

Vogue is on the money here:

"As the Obama administration's point person for a cratering economy, Geithner knows thing or two about unpopularity."

Progressives think Geithner has sold out to Wall Street. Wall Street thinks Geithner is too tough (according to Vogue.) Which makes Tim Geithner a very unpopular man today.

So Geithner's out on the trail, chatting up with reporters, giving them the skinny on the skinny guy at Treasury. Through Vogue, we learn what Geithner really thinks:

"'In the end,' he says, sounding very much like his political hero, Lyndon B. Johnson, 'it's not about what you believe. It's about what you can achieve.'"

The answer to a Treasury Secretary's unpopularity isn't multiple profile pieces in a variety of publications.

The solution is creating jobs. Reforming the financial sector so that the financial firms can never again drag the economy off the cliff. Reinstating accounting standards so that off-balance accounting, like that which Lehman allegedly practiced, is an immediate red flag to investors and regulators alike warning everyone that funny money is not the sign of strength and stability.

As a war room once reminded all its warriors: "It's the economy, stupid." And improving the economy would be an achievement we could all be happy with.

2 comments:

Rocky Humbert said...

Hi AW:

Elle Woods, if memory serves me, was actually one sharp lady -- when you looked beyond her pink-colored laptop. ;)

You write: "The solution is creating jobs." I agree 100%. However, the government has never created a single "job." And Geithner has spent his entire career working in government.

The government can hire people. But you and I are involuntarily paying for those people's salaries with our taxes. Jobs are generally created by private enterprises -- who innovate and/or provide a product or service that people willingly buy. There's a big difference....

Ward on Words said...

"Jobs are generally created by private enterprises -- who innovate and/or provide a product or service that people willingly buy."

You know, Rocky, I actually agree with you here - that it is the private sector that should be creating jobs.

Just as it was the private sector that should have absorbed the catastrophic losses that the feds funded in the fall of 2008 with TARP/taxpayer funds.

Which means that in 2009, you and I involuntarily paid for a whole lot of bonuses for those working in failed companies.

The absence of a private sector solution right now is crippling this country.

In the interview, the most irritating aspect is when Geithner says this:

"'Think of all the stuff that burned first,' he says. 'Fannie and Freddie, the investment banks, AIG, the monoline insurance companies – it was their collapse that broght the system to the point of panic, but those things wer outside the scope of the Fed's jurisdiction. They all got dumped on us when they went bad, but we had no authority up front.'"

I once liked to think that people in power could actually exercise power to prevent things from happening, but Geithner apparently "had no authority" to use his position as head of the FRNY to effect change prior to catastrophe.

Kind of wish he'd been a bit angrier prior to the collapse, headed into the fray prior to the need for a massive bailout, channeled his rage prior to the collapse that has been such an enormous burden on the system and our taxes.

(I confess to enjoying Legally Blond! Fun to watch it with my girls!)