Art Cullen

Skeptical Senator

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, was right to vote for change and against Tim Geithner for Treasury Secretary. Grassley was not so concerned about Geithner’s tax problems, or that he had an illegal immigrant for a maid. The ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee dissented from majority Democrats on the panel because Geithner failed to answer Grassley’s specific questions about how the $700 billion in bailout funds issued last fall have been used.

Geithner was the head of the New York Federal Reserve Bank when the credit markets seized up. He was part of a three-headed monster with Bush Treasury Secretary Hank Paulsen and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke that gave the nation the distinct impression that nobody was in charge, and that nobody knew how the bailout funds were working. We still don’t know, and the big-bank recipients refuse to tell us.

Geithner helped to lead us into this mess. He is not the man to help lead us out, unless he proved he learned something. By failing to address Grassley directly, it is obvious that he is a flawed candidate.

If you want change, hire Berkley economist Robert Reich (former Labor Secretary), who was on the outs with the Rubin/Summers/Bernanke/Bush/Clinton crowd while still in the Cabinet. Or James Galbraith, a populist economist at the University of Texas in Austin, son of John Kenneth Galbraith. Or Iowa’s own Neil Harl, probably the foremost expert in America on credit crashes, thanks to living through the thick of the farm debt crisis of the 1980s and seeing how we worked out of it. Grassley might not pick them himself, but he would vote for them. That he did not vote for Geithner speaks to Grassley’s own suspicion of entrenched power and corruption on Wall Street which continues to hold far too much sway.

Geithner was approved by a majority of the Finance Committee and then the full Senate. We can hope that Geithner’s brush with the loyal opposition will give him a keener appreciation of how to clean up this mess that he helped to create.

Art Cullen is editor of The Storm Lake (Iowa) Times, where this appeared. Email:

From The Progressive Populist, Feb. 15, 2009

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