As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Friday, March 06, 2009

Nobody's Home

One of the more pernicious parts of this economic crisis is that it's unspooling with Timothy Geithner practically working alone at the Treasury Department. Whether it's because of inertia or the vetting process being too stringent or practically everyone who's ever worked in finance being too compromised to take the job, almost all of the top deputy positions at Treasury haven't been filled, and two candidates just dropped out of consideration:

WASHINGTON -- Two candidates for top jobs at the Treasury have withdrawn their names from consideration, complicating efforts by Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner to staff his department at a time of economic crisis, according to people familiar with the matter.

Annette Nazareth, who was expected to be tapped as deputy Treasury secretary, and Caroline Atkinson, who was being considered to oversee international affairs, have both taken their names out of the running, these people said. Ms. Atkinson's name was withdrawn weeks ago and Ms. Nazareth withdrew several days ago.

The withdrawals come amid growing concern about the lack of staff at Treasury as it tries to grapple with an unrelenting financial crisis. Mr. Geithner is the only official to be nominated, let alone confirmed.

Paul Volcker, an economic adviser to President Barack Obama, recently called the lack of staff "shameful" and said Mr. Geithner "shouldn't be sitting there alone."

Let's add that Geithner is not exactly "sitting alone". There are holdovers from the reign of Emperor Paulson sitting in those seats. Feel better?

Meanwhile, the economic advisory team is being held up out of pure petty politics.

President Barack Obama’s economic advisers are increasingly concerned about the U.S. Senate’s delay in confirming the nominations of Austan Goolsbee and Cecilia Rouse to the White House Council of Economic Advisers.

Without Senate confirmation, the two economists are barred from advising the president as the administration tackles the worst financial crisis in 70 years and tries to advance the spending plan Obama submitted to Congress last week.

“It’s frustrating,” said Christina Romer, who heads the three-member CEA. “These are hard economic times and we desperately want to get them through the Senate and definitely on the job.”

“They are both superb economists,” she said. “I can’t imagine what the holdup is.”

Goolsbee and Rouse appeared before the Senate Banking Committee on Jan. 15 and were slated for a full Senate confirmation on Inauguration Day, Jan. 20, according to a senior administration official. Instead, they were approved by the panel Feb. 10.

They weren’t placed on the confirmation slate for the full chamber, leading some administration officials to conclude that Senate Republicans were retaliating against the Democrats because President George W. Bush’s nominations for the same slots languished in the Senate for months at the end of his second term.

It's not like Goolsbee, from the University of Chicago, is some socialist radical. This is purely political at a time when the economy is melting down. There's a lot of blame to spread around here.

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