Tim Geithner: Grifter of the Power Elite

Tim GeithnerLast week, Matt Stoller wrote an excellent review of Stress Test, Tim Geithner’s new book, The Con-Artist Wing of the Democratic Party. That headline is not an exaggeration; that’s truly what he thinks of Geithner. Basically, he’s making an argument that should be very familiar to my readers: about 25 years ago, the plutocrats took over the Democratic Party. They aren’t interested in social policy; they just want to take money away from the poor and give it to the rich. And Stoller sees Geithner as critical to this process, “It struck me that I was reading the memoirs of an incredibly savvy and well-bred grifter, the kind that the American WASP establishment of financiers, foundation officials, and spies produces in such rich abundance.”

Go read the whole article because it is very informative, not just about Geithner but about the whole New Democratic movement. Also of much interest is Dean Baker’s review of the book, Stress Test: The Indictment of Timothy Geithner.Baker plays a critical role in keeping me sane, because he is the most clear-eyed observer of the political economy and he reminds me that I’m not just a crank; I have very good reasons for seeing the world the way I do.

There was something in Stoller’s review that really struck me: Geithner’s life story. He was born into the power elite. And then, without really trying, he finds that his career leads him to the very top of the power structure. After talking about how he wasn’t a good student, he writes the following that is simply jaw dropping:

During my orals, when one professor asked which economics journals I read, I replied that I had never read any. Seriously? Yes, seriously. But not long after we returned from our honeymoon in France, Henry Kissinger’s international consulting firm hired me as an Asia analyst; my dean at SAIS had recommended me to Brent Scowcroft, one of Kissinger’s partners.

Geithner doesn’t seem to think it is at all strange. Imagine a smart but lazy poor black kid who made it into college. Would he have gotten through school with such an attitude about his studies? And assuming he did graduate, would he just get a great job working for a really important company? This is beyond white privilege, which is bad enough; this is rich privilege. But Geithner is so used to getting everything handed to him that he doesn’t notice it.

So it isn’t surprising that he has what is basically an aristocratic worldview what dictates that Geithner’s social class has to be protected at all costs, but middle class families can just lose their houses and their lives because they are the “little people” who don’t matter anyway. I was shocked to learn that Geithner isn’t a lawyer and doesn’t have a PhD in economics or a comparable field. No, he was just pushed up the ladder of success because he was the “right” kind of person.

And the power elite were right to promote him. Because when the chips were down, Geithner did just what was best for the power elite without a thought to what was best for the nation or the world. He is one of the great villains of the last few decades. And now he will be rewarded for it. There is no doubt that Geithner will die a billionaire.

If this is meritocracy, then I think people ought to stop talking about it like it is a good thing.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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