homeowner geithner v. secretary of treasury geithner -- 6/9/14

Today's selection -- from Stress Test by Timothy F. Geithner. High profile politicians and political appointees have long been public targets. Tim Geithner, a career public servant who had ascended to the position of Secretary of the Treasury found that out during his tumultuous tenure there. In taking the job he relocated from New York to Washington during one of the greatest financial crises in US history -- a crisis he was tasked with helping to solve -- and found himself unable to sell his home:

"Our main problem was the economic fallout from a vicious crisis, Unemployment was 9.6 percent and still rising, so we looked ineffective. As Jon Stewart said while introducing a Daily Show segment about a homeowner who had moved from Westchester to Washington but couldn't sell his home: 'We all know the economy, uh, sucks.' The homeowner in question was me.

"'Hold on. Timothy Geithner, the man responsible for getting us out of this economic shitstorm, cannot sell his house?' correspondent, John Oliver, asked with mock horror. That's right, replied a local real estate agent. 'Oh, God,' Oliver gasped. He spent a lot of the segment making fun of pictures of the blue tiles in my son's bathroom, as if to suggest they should disqualify me from public service.

"Carole and Elise had been inside baking brownies for her high school graduation party when Oliver and his crew showed up to film outside. They were trapped inside the house until he left, and they were pretty upset. Even though The Daily Show was my favorite TV show, and I was certainly a fair target, I was angry at the invasion of our privacy. I hated the idea that my family was by extension subjected to ridicule. I also hated the idea that Elise was graduating from high school, and that my work had kept me away during so much of her last year at home.

"As the financial crisis began to ebb, my fear and anxiety morphed into numbness and exhaustion and anger. I felt singed. I remember talking over dinner with my close friend Josh Steiner, who had lived through the political attacks on the Clinton administration during his Treasury days, about what was harder to deal with emotionally, fear or anger. He said that anger made it much tougher to keep focus and perspective, and I agreed. I was always pretty good about tuning out fear and focusing on my work, trying to preserve that impression of equanimity, but I had to make a conscious effort not to let the anger eat away at me."


Timothy F. Geithner


Stress Test: Reflections on Financial Crises


Crown Publishing Group


Copyright 2014 by Timothy Geithner


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