As I mentioned earlier, I spent yesterday afternoon at a Treasury Department thingy with various bloggers and senior officials that you’ve probably seen mentioned elsewhere. What it mostly made me think was how much I disagree with Tim Fernholz’s assessment that the recent Geithner profiles in The Atlantic and The New Yorker demonstrate the importance of reporting.
My two opportunities to speak with Tim Geithner have essentially driven home to be the extremely sharp limits of “speak to Tim Geithner” as a strategy for figuring out what the Geithner Treasury Department is all about. Talk to the guy and you’ll learn that he’s got a great kind of dark wit and also that he’s very much the ferocious pragmatist that a lot of people in Washington kinda sorta pretend to be. Looked at in a bad way, he doesn’t do a good job of painting a broad thematic vision. Looked at in a good way, he’s very very very focused on ending the panic in the financial sector, getting enough macroeconomic growth to promote a labor market recovery, reducing the odds of a new financial panic, and working to minimize the odds of any public sector debt meltdown. Very focused. And that’s really been his whole career—rising from one job to the next because people feel that having Geithner on your team helps resolve financial crises.
But so what you make of all this ultimately ends up coming down to whether or not you believe this stuff really has been working. I’m convinced. The American people aren’t. But the evidence that it’s worked (or hasn’t) isn’t really going to be found by doing Washington reporting.