Still in the Wilderness

February 17, 2009 10:00 a.m.

One of the points mentioned in this morning’s Washington Post piece about the Geithner speech is a point I’ve mentioned already a few times: that a lot of key political appointments at the Treasury haven’t been made yet, let alone been confirmed. And that played an important role slowing down and frustrating the planning.

From what we can tell, one of the big issues is that it’s actually hard to find people with the requisite knowledge of banks and the capital markets who aren’t also compromised — either in policy or business terms — by the housing bubble and the rest of the financial collapse. And that raises again as a question: why have none of the people who were financial orthodoxy dissidents and saw what was coming been brought in to the administration. I know I’m hardly the first one to bring this up. And we know that the big appointees — Summers and Geithner — were part of the mix. But there aren’t even any of them further down into the appointment structure. They’re all still on the outside.

Often I feel like there’s something cheap about dividing everyone up by who got this or that question ‘right’, as a way for the people who got it ‘right’ to discredit everyone else. Happens on the right or the left. Sometimes people are just lucky. And being right once doesn’t mean you’ll be right again. But it would certainly help having some people in the mix who’d gotten in the habit of thinking in ways that allowed them to see what was coming.

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