Tales from the Trail

from Summit Notebook:

The Geithner approach: make the best of bad choices

Ever wonder how the U.S. Treasury Secretary gets through some of the most economically stressful times this country has seen in a while -- does he go for long runs? Sleep two hours a night?

Timothy Geithner has been in the job less than a year, and came in after the economy had slumped into recession. Now unemployment is approaching 10 percent, he's had to navigate through an economic stimulus package, and on top of all that the weakness of the U.S. dollar has other countries questioning whether it should still be the reserve currency.

Enough problems, we imagine, to give anyone a big giant headache and more than a few sleepless nights.

So what does Geithner do under the weight of it all?

"I've been in the middle of this for quite a long time," he said in an interview at the Reuters Washington Summit on Tuesday. (Remember, before this job, Geithner was president of the New York Federal Reserve Bank).

His general approach, Geithner said, is to "focus on trying to make sure you're making the best of a bunch of bad choices."

Obama tells critics to “grab a mop”

President Barack Obama fired back on Tuesday at conservative critics who say he has not accomplished enough in his first nine months in office.

He told them they should “grab a mop” to help him clean up the mess he inherited from Republican President George W. Bush. obama1

Many Republican critics say the continued sluggishness in the economy and the rise in the unemployment rate to 9.8 percent were a sign that Obama policies on the economy were not effective.

Hey Washington, it’s still the economy

Politicians who have a red circle around Election Day in November 2010 would do well to have a look at a new poll by Public Strategies Inc. and Politico. USA-ECONOMY/

It says voters choose the economy by a two-to-one margin over other issues in determining how they will vote in that midterm congressional election.

The numbers:

–45 percent consider the economy the most important issue in deciding their vote.
–21 percent chose government spending.
–20 percent picked a U.S. healthcare overhaul.
–9 percent chose the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as their big issues.
–4 percent picked climate change.

The First Draft: Washington haiku

USA-CANYON/Sometimes prose doesn’t quite capture the goings-on in Washington. These haikus might not either, but at least they’re short, which is an appropriate length for many of the capital events these days and easily Twitterable. Poetry is supposed to reduce things to their essence. Just in case these go too far in that direction, there are highlighted links to take you to a fuller explanation, if not a deeper meaning.POTUS hits the roadTo parry health care criticsIn Bozeman. Yeehaw!Hitting a plateau?Feds say economy isLeveling. Really?African sojournEnds for Hillary ClintonA tough trip, completeGrand Canyon freebie,For Obamas and others,aims to lure touristsFor Mrs. Shriver,They gather in Hyannis.Eunice, rest in peaceAnyone can do this. You probably know the rules: three lines, with five syllables in the first line, seven in the second, five in the third. Show us what you’ve got!Photo credit: REUTERS/Rickey Rogers (Grand Canyon, January 2, 2008)

Republicans seek economic wisdom from Greenspan

Alan Greenspan may have retired as chairman of the Federal Reserve, but his insight is still in hot demand, so much so that Senate Republicans invited him to be their guest speaker at their weekly policy lunch.

FINANCIAL/Per his normal practice, Greenspan declined to tell reporters what he told the lawmakers behind closed doors, but that did not stop a few senators from spilling the beans.

New Hampshire Republican Senator Judd Gregg said the former Fed chief talked mostly about the need to address the long-term budget deficit, specifically the Medicare healthcare program for the elderly and those with disabilities. The U.S. deficit is expected to crest at more than $1.8 trillion in fiscal 2009 which ends Sept. 30.

Cheney wanted GM in bankruptcy sooner

GUANTANAMO-CHENEY/With General Motors expected to file for bankruptcy next week, former Vice President Dick Cheney said on Wednesday that he wanted the company to take that step months ago when George W. Bush was still president.

“Some of us at the time wanted GM to go bankrupt, go to Chapter 11,” Cheney said in an interview with CNBC’s “The Kudlow Report”. But Cheney apparently was in the minority with that view at the time.

“The decision was made that, in the final analysis, since our administration was almost over and a brand-new team was about to take over that the president wanted, in effect, not to take a step that wasn’t necessarily going to be followed by his successor, but rather to set up a situation which the new guys could address that issue and make a decision about what the long-term policy was going to be,” he said.

from Photographers' Blog:

Tim Geithner : What’s In Your Wallet?

What's in U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner's wallet? Not much.

While testifying in front of a House Appropriations Subcommittee on Capitol Hill Thursday Geithner was shown a $50 Billion Zimbabwean bank note (rendered worthless by Zimbabwe's hyperinflation) by U.S. Representative John Culberson (R- TX) and asked if he had ever seen one himself. Geithner immediately pulled a piece of Zimbabwean currency out of his own pocket and showed it off to the committee. At the next break in the hearing I approached Geithner and asked how he happened to have a piece of foreign currency in his pocket. His response was "I often have some foreign currency in my wallet. Want to see?" He pulled a very thin and mostly empty wallet from his pocket.

Amongst many empty slots in the thin weathered leather wallet there could be seen three credit or debit cards with Visa and Mastercard logos (all inserted into the wallet upside down so that the card issuers could not be seen) and an old and yellowed looking identification card of indeterminate origin.

From inside the wallet Geithner extracted a small pile of receipts and paper including a New York City MTA farecard, pointing out that there were European Euros tucked amongst the paper.

Poll shows Americans trust Obama, Democrats

WASHINGTON – OBAMA/U.S. President Barack Obama has yet to turn around the troubled U.S. economy, but American voters have confidence in his efforts and see him headed in the right direction.

Those are among the findings of a survey released on Tuesday that also showed Americans have greater confidence in Obama’s fellow Democrats than they do in rival Republicans.
 
The survey, however, had some troublesome numbers for the Democrats’ third-highest ranking elected official — House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
 
Just 26 percent of respondents said they had a “great deal” or “some” trust in the California Democrat, who stands second in the line of succession to Obama, behind only Vice President Joe Biden.
 
The poll found that more respondents, 38 percent and 28 percent, respectively, had such a level of trust in Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, the failed 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee, and conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh, respectively.
 
The Public Strategies Inc./POLITICO nationwide survey of 1,000 registered voters was conducted March 27-31 and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percent.
 
The poll found that 66 percent of respondents said they have a “great deal” or “some” trust in Obama, who has battled Republicans as well as some Democrats in the U.S. Congress, largely over fiscal policy, since taking office on January 20.
 
The survey found that 52 percent of respondents have a “great deal” or “some” trust in Democrats, while just 40 percent have such a level of confidence in Republicans, who vigorously opposed Obama’s $787 billion economic stimulus package and $3.5 trillion budget plan.
 
The survey found with Obama at the helm, 54 percent of respondents said they believe that the U.S. government is headed in the right direction, up from 35 percent in December before the new president took office.
 
Obama, in a speech on Tuesday in Washington, said there were signs of economic recovery but cautioned “by no means are we out of the woods just yet.”

For more Reuters political news, click here.

Photo credit: Reuters/Larry Downing – U.S. President Barack Obama speaks about the economy at Gaston Hall at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. on April 14, 2009.

The First Draft: jobs jobs jobs

Guess what? There’s more bad news about the economy today.

Numbers out today show the unemployment rate has risen to its highest rate in 25 years as companies buckled under the strain of a recession that is showing no signs of ending. ECONOMY-JOBFAIR/

Want to hear more? The head of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Keith Hall, testifies to Congress about the employment picture at 9:30.

In the Obama administration’s first public overture to Tehran, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has invited Iran to a conference on Afghanistan planned for this month. Traveling in Brussels, Clinton also said the problems of climate change and the economy should be tackled simultaneously.

The First Draft: chilly winds and hot air

There’s a cold wind blowing in Washington on Tuesday morning, one day after a late-winter storm dumped up to a foot of snow on the region. DC residents anticipate a thaw when our national leaders provide their daily dose of hot air. WEATHER-USA/SNOW

President Obama meets U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown at the White House at 11:30. They are expected to discuss their efforts to revive the global economy.

After that, Obama meets with Boy Scouts at 3 p.m.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke testifies to Congress about the economy starting at 10:00, and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner testifies about Obama’s budget proposal at 12:30. Markets are continuing to swoon after yesterday’s plunge; will their testimony spark a rally?