I am not a fan of former U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner. He presided over the politically conceived, patently unconstitutional, and anti-free market taxpayer bailouts of banks, automakers, and insurance companies in the latter part of the administration of former President George W. Bush, when he was the head of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and during the first term of President Obama when he was the secretary of the Treasury.
In those years (and still today), he has argued that aggressive government intervention leads to a stronger financial system because the government will take risks with taxpayer money that the taxpayers themselves will not take with it. He believes in the use of government coercion, rather than the voluntary choices of consumers and investors.
Those of us who embrace the free market do so not only because it has produced more broad-based prosperity than any government has, but also because it offers the only moral system of financial exchanges for goods and services because, in a truly free market, every exchange is voluntary. Coercing money from taxpayers to pay for the failures of businesses is theft.
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We also argue that the recession of 2008 was largely caused by the bursting of the housing bubble, and that bubble was induced by the government. The Federal Reserve, on whose board Geithner sat, commanded artificially low interest rates that encouraged wild speculative borrowing. And Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, those federal government garbage cans, used taxpayer dollars to buy all the bad loans the imprudent lenders could sell them. This, too, encouraged wild and speculative loans to people who could not afford to repay them.
But I write today not to rehash old arguments. Regrettably, the government today — the welfare and warfare states in which we Americans now live — is comfortably in the hands of progressives. With the exception of the Goldwater and early Reagan years, the leadership of both major political parties has been dominated by progressives — heavy progressives in the Democratic Party and light progressives in the Republican Party — since World War II. These politicians are disciples of Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt, two presidents who turned the Constitution on its head.
James Madison stated that he wrote the Constitution conscious of the need to restrain the federal government — to limit it to the specific areas of governmental authority set forth in the Constitution and to guarantee areas free from all government regulation. Wilson and TR viewed the Constitution as liberating the federal government to do whatever its leadership wished, except when the Constitution expressly prohibits the wished-for behavior.
When it comes to understanding the powers of the federal government, Geithner is in the Wilson and TR camp. Those of us who believe in maximum individual liberty are in the Madison camp. Yet, Geithner tipped his hand a bit earlier this week in a new memoir; and that tip caught the public’s attention.
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The tip revealed that in 2009, shortly before his first round of interviews as Treasury secretary on the Sunday morning television network talk shows, Geithner endured a prep session administered to him by Dan Pfeiffer, then the senior adviser to Obama. Pfeiffer instructed Geithner to suggest to the American public that Social Security is operating in the black and thus is not a contributing cause of the ballooning federal deficit. He stated that the president needed that message to go out to his base as a “dog whistle to the left” — meaning a signal to the president’s political base, the truth be damned.
Did Pfeiffer ask Geithner to lie? The secretary apparently thought so, even though the government’s fuzzy math can make red ink look black. Whatever the truth, Geithner’s version is that both he and Pfeiffer believed the ink was red; and when Pfeiffer asked him to deceive the public by claiming it was black, he declined.
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