Tim Geithner says:

Things were falling apart. We had no playbook and no tools…Life’s about choices. We had no good choices…We allowed this huge financial system to emerge without any meaningful constraints…The size of the shock was larger than what precipitated the Great Depression.

Indeed, there are some signs that we’ve been in a depression for a number of years.

Geithner also warned that another financial crisis will hit:

“It will come again. There will be another storm,” warned Geithner, who in early 2009 succeeded Paulson as treasury secretary. “But it’s not going to come for a while.”


“I’m certain we will” experience another catastrophe—he just couldn’t say when or what kind.

“You will not know,” he answered when Sorkin tried to pin him down. “It’s not going to be possible for people to capture risk with perfect foresight and knowledge.”

As I noted last year:

Greenspan says that the financial crisis was caused by a once-in-100-year event.

Tim Geithner says its more like once every 40 years.

Jamie Dimon implies every 5-7 years.

But Simon Johnson says its really once every 5 years:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Would the American people stand for the lack of any real reform if they knew that the financial system will likely melt down again within the next 5 years? [given that the crisis started in 2007, that means that the next crisis will hit in 2012 ... if nothing blows up in the meantime]

Geithner has been a big part of the problem.

He’s previously said that his job as head of the New York Fed wasn’t as a regulator, even though one of the Fed’s core jobs is to regulate. As Dylan Ratigan writes:

In Geithner’s own words during confirmation hearings in March: “First of all, I’ve never been a regulator…I’m not a regulator.” According to the New York fed bank’s Web site, that was your job!!Quoting from the Fed’s website: “As part of our core mission, we supervise and regulate financial institutions in the Second District.” That district of course is the epicenter for bailed out banks and billion dollar bonuses.

(In other words, the 2007-2008 shock was even bigger than the one leading up to the Great Depression because Geithner and the other regulators were sitting on their hands.)

Indeed, as I’ve previously noted:

Tim Geithner told the Today Show that:

It’s “deeply unfair” that some financial institutions that got taxpayer-paid bailouts are emerging in better shape from the recession than millions of ordinary Americans.

Geithner also argued that President Barack Obama had no choice when confronted with a financial crisis.

“As the president has said, we had to do some very unpopular things,” Geithner said. “People looked at what had happened.””It’s not fair. It’s deeply unfair,” he said. “He (Obama) had to decide whether he was going to act to fix it or stand back … and that would have been calamitous for the American economy.”

There are only a couple of minor inaccuracies in Geithner’s statements:

  • Geithner’s entire approach is wrong, because the economy can’t recover until many of the “financial institutions that got taxpayer-paid bailouts [and] are emerging in better shape” are broken up
  • The government has been anemic in addressing unemployment

Moreover, it is not like their approach fell on them and they couldn’t do anything about it. Geithner … and the boys made a conscious decision to side with the oligarchy at the expense of the people.

As Simon Johnson and James Kwak write:

[There was a] point at which the government had to decide if it would defend the financial oligarchy from populist outrage, or whether it would reform the financial system that brought us the financial crisis and severe recession. We do not think it was an easy choice. But ultimately Obama and his advisers chose to bet on the bankers they knew. The result has been even larger banks and an even more concentrated financial sector.


Geithner ended the interview with this pearl of wisdom:

“What happened in our country should never happen again,” he said. “People were paid for taking enormous risks. It was a crazy way to run a financial system.” Geithner said, “It’s the government’s job … to do a better job of restraining that kind of risk-taking.”

Indeed … too bad that Geithner and the boys are still encouraging that kind of risk-taking.

Geithner was, of course, largely responsible for much of the failure of the government to restrain risk-taking in the first place.

As William Black points out:

Mr. Geithner, as President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York since October 2003, was one of those senior regulators who failed to take any effective regulatory action to prevent the crisis, but instead covered up its depth.

Geithner was also complicit in Lehman’s accounting fraud [and see this].

And pushed to pay AIG’s CDS counterparties at full value, and then to keep the deal secret.

And as Robert Reich notes today, Geithner was “very much in the center of the action” regarding the secret bail out of Bear Stearns without Congressional approval.

(So the shock was even bigger than the one leading up to the Depression because Geithner and his buddies helped blow the bubble and try to cover up wrongdoing on Wall Street.)

Geithner has been equally bad as Treasury boss. Indeed, there is hardly a single independent economist who thinks he has been responding appropriately to the economic crisis.

Sorry to say, but Geithner has long been a yes-man to the powers-that-be, who ships pallets of money wherever he is told without question or any follow-up or tracking whatsoever.

Even worse, Geithner has been called an idiot by Nassim Taleb and a “con man” by Time Magazine.

No wonder we’re going to eventually have another crash …

And because Geithner (along with Bernanke) have insisted that the big banks be bailed out at Main Street’s expense, that the status quo be protected instead of reformed, and that the U.S. insure the debts of the too big to fails, the next crisis will be even bigger than the last.

Category: Bailouts, Think Tank

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

5 Responses to “Geithner: “The Size Of The Shock Was Larger Than What Precipitated The Great Depression””

  1. Your last paragraph is what Geithner either doesn’t know, or is too corrupt to admit.

  2. BearishNews says:

    Good stuff. Made me dig out Bill Black’s answer to this question:

    Q: “Do you feel that your outspoken views preclude you from future government appointments?”

    Mr. Black: “My crucial CLGs (“career limiting gestures”) were being a serial whistleblower and helping to cause two presidential appointees (i.e., my bosses) to resign in disgrace. I also played some role in Speaker Wright’s decision to resign in disgrace and the embarrassment of the Keating Five. Pointing out that Geithner was selected because he was a perennial failure and moral cripple, not despite these defects, pales in comparison to those CLGs.”

    That last sentence says a lot, for some. Bill Black’s a smart guy, can we get him back in DC? Pretty plz?


  3. Minion says:

    Through the various derivative meltdowns I’ve studied (LTCM, Neiderhoffer, MBS) there were two things in common that struck me, as a small trader, as catastrophically risky: massive put selling and leveraged arb strategies that assumed rational individual behavior at all times and a market that wouldn’t decline. LTCM, for example, always assumed spreads would contract (essentially all of their trades were directional in this regard, not hedged as to the possibility of the reverse happening in a panic).

    Behold, the power of panic. Giants fall by making proud assumptions about how the world “should” work.

    Buying weakness and selling strength in a range works great until price breaks out…….

  4. The amazing part of this entire situation is how someone as bright as Obama could be convinced by Timmy G to take the action they took.

    Destroying the banks was so obviously the right answer – then and now – and no one will admit that. So it’s back to business as usual, with one party wanting even less bank regulation on how the banks do business.

    How can this be tolerated?

  5. michael-D says:

    game plan: print out numerous copies of this blog posting; after the next financial crises hits and turbo-tax timmy goes on numerous cnbs shows proclaiming “nobody could see this coming” mail copies of this to him and to whichever presstitutes were interviewing him at the time, and the WSJ, and every other large outlet …

    nobody could see the last one coming except it seems for droves of folks who laid it out chapter and verse, and of course the good folks at the fed who caused it. next time, nobody could will it coming, except for turbo of course.