Putting Odds on Obama’s Treasury Secretary Candidates

A look at who might get the nod to replace Paulson

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With Obama Treasury secretary speculation in full swing, The Home Front staffers put our proprietary algorithms to work (OK, we winged it) and generated the odds of certain leading candidates being selected.

Here are the results:

Timothy Geithner (odds: 2 to 1)

Pro: The president of the New York Fed has worked hand-in-hand with Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson in implementing the federal response to the financial mess. Not only does this mean he’s up-to-speed on issues, but it allows for an “Olympic baton handoff” from one administration to the next, as one ex-Treasury official put it. Furthermore, although he does have close relationships with prominent financial players, he has never worked on Wall Street. That means he’s less likely to be considered one of the “greedy fat cats” that many hold responsible for the crisis.

Con: Much like Obama himself, Geithner is a young--he’s 47--and ambitious figure. With the nation facing its worst financial mess since the Great Depression, the new administration may want someone with a little more gray hair.

Lawrence Summers (odds: 5 to 2)

Pro: The former Treasury secretary under President Clinton could bring experience to the administration that Obama himself lacks.

Con: Baggage. Summers was forced to resign as president of Harvard a couple years back after suggesting that fewer women excel in math and science professions partly on account of innate differences between the two sexes. His appointment would surely dredge up this ugly incident, which would make for an inauspicious start to the new administration.

Paul Volcker (odds: 12 to 1)

Pro: Talk about credibility. Few figures anywhere could project the kind of experienced stewardship that this former Fed chairman can. This association would be immensely attractive to an administration that will need to beef up on experience in crisis.

Con: The man is 82. And several of those years were spent driving his knee caps into double-digit inflation. So he’s really somewhere in his mid-90s.

Sheila Bair (odds: 15 to 1)

Pro: The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. chairman has been leading the Bush administration’s efforts to fight foreclosures, clashing at times with the White House. With the Democrats expected to get more aggressive on that front, she could certainly bring credibility to the efforts. Furthermore, as a female Republican, she would seem well-suited for the kind of inclusive, bipartisan administration Obama apparently wants to create. (She’s a great dark-horse selection.)

Con: Not terribly experienced. She’s been at the FDIC--a fairly anonymous agency until this crisis--for only a little over two years.

Jamie Dimon (odds: 30 to 1)

Pro: The JPMorgan Chase CEO has emerged as one of the real winners of the credit crisis and worked closely with the government in helping to avoid the financial shock of a Bear Stearns failure. As a leading market player, he’s intimately familiar with the financial innovations that the government has been struggling to understand and regulate.

Con: He’s a Wall Street guy. Bringing him in would appear at odds with Obama’s campaign rhetoric and risk alienating Democratic support.

Robert Rubin (odds: 32 to 1)

Pro: Already an economic adviser to Obama, the former Treasury secretary is no stranger to crises, having served in the Clinton administration during financial meltdowns in Asia and Latin America.

Con: After leaving the Treasury Department, Rubin wound up at Citigroup. The connection to one of the real laughingstocks of the housing crisis all but takes him out of the running.

Warren Buffett (odds: 100 to 1)

Pro: The household name and universally beloved investor would bring tremendous credibility and savvy to an Obama administration.

Con: He’s way too smart to take this job.

Obama administration
Paulson, Henry

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