Can You Address the Consequences of Selecting a Treasury Secretary?


President Bush with Treasury Secretary Henry Paul (right) and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke (left); AP photo

Question/Comment: Can you address the consequences of selecting a Treasury Secretary? What are the salient policy and personality differences between the different candidates? Are there other notable candidates not on the short list that should be?

Paul Solman: By candidates “on the short list,” I assume you mean Paul Volcker, Robert Rubin and most prominently, Larry Summers and Tim Geithner. Others who get a mention: former Clinton Deputy Treasury Secretary Roger Altman and Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Chairwoman Sheila Bair. I’ve even seen “Chicago venture capitalist David Vitale” on one list and JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon on another.

Salient policy differences? Not many, I wouldn’t think. These are all experienced pragmatists who believe in markets but don’t go gaga over them. The one person I know who’s worked with Geithner wasn’t impressed by his depth of understanding. I’ve interviewed (as have others at the
NewsHour) Volcker, Rubin, and Summers and believe me, they ARE impressive.

Sheila Bair might be a daring choice, policy-wise. She’s certainly been bolder than anyone in the current crisis, using her power to bail out homeowners instead of those who loaned to them.

Personality differences? Volcker seems tough, gruff and honest.. Summers has a tendency to alienate: he lost the Harvard presidency because he’d insulted so many people BEFORE his remarks about women and science. Rubin is attractively diplomatic. Again, I’ve never met Geithner.

As to who else “should be” on the list, I have no real opinion.