We don’t mean to sound impatient, but we’ve seen enough. The country is in the middle of the worst financial crisis in 75 years, and the second-most-important person in charge clearly isn’t the right man for the job.
When both engines on US Air Flight 1549 quit after takeoff, Capt. Sullenberger did not cling stubbornly to his preconceived view of the situation. He did not float endless versions of the same bad plan to air traffic controllers to see what they thought of them. He did not spend months preparing for a moment just like this only to be seized by indecision when it arrived.
Instead, he just took the controls and landed the plane in the Hudson.
Note that this was not a risk-free, popular, or easy decision. When air traffic controllers learned where Sullenberger was headed, they thought everyone in the plane was dead. But if Sullenberger had taken the easier route, and tried for Teterboro, they all would have been dead–along with a bunch of folks on the ground.
Before taking office at the end of January, Tim Geithner had many months to develop a solid plan for what to do. He had the opportunity to see what was working and what wasn’t and to consult with dozens of experts, many of whom had no stake in the matter (unlike the Wall Street kingpins who seem to have shaped Geithner’s inaccurate view of the situation). He had the opportunity to see and understand that what America needs most right now is clarity and decisiveness.
Then he took office. In the five weeks since, Tim Geithner has:
- Given a speech billed as the solution to the financial crisis in which he promised something vague, someday, that sounded an awful lot like the bad plan that didn’t work in the past administration (which really isn’t that surprising, given that Geithner was the one who came up with the earlier bad plan).
- Floated multiple versions of the same plan into the press hoping that one would be enthusiastically received by someone other than Wall Street (no dice.)
- Refused to seriously discuss the consensus opinion of most neutral economists and experts: That the banking system is insolvent and that the solution is pre-privatization.
- Given Congressional testimony in which his brusque, defensive manner and weak responses have inspired no confidence and served only to make people wonder again why Obama picked him for the job.
and, most importantly, Tim Geithner has:
- Refused to revisit or defend his almost certainly inaccurate view that this crisis is merely a temporary price decline caused by a lack of liquidity, rather than a collapse of a debt-driven economy. You can’t cure the patient if you’re treating the wrong problem.
With a few years of seasoning in a normal environment, Tim Geithner might turn out to be a fine Treasury Secretary. But this isn’t a normal environment, and we don’t have a few years.
The engines of the US economy just quit. We’re losing altitude rapidly. And the co-pilot flying the plane clearly doesn’t know what to do.
So it’s time for the captain to take over again, before Geithner takes him and the rest of us down with him.