Stress Test, by Tim Geithner, was read by Mr. Geithner. He reads in an uneven tone of voice, often in a monotone, and truthfully, I fell asleep no less than three times during the time I listened to this book.
I gave it two stars, which I consider a generous rating, only because of the effort expended. The book seemed to be nothing more than a disingenuous “apology tour” to his wife and a reaffirmation of his belief that he made all the right decisions, if only those who were ignorant could have understood his purpose. He attacked the Bush administration and the GOP while he worshiped at the feet of President Obama and his cronies without admitting their responsibility in the debacle that the White House faced. It was a biased presentation of the facts that will be much loved and appreciated by Liberals who agree with President Obama’s extremely “Progressive” policies. It was not a fair representation of the truth, but it was a representation of Geithner’s interpretation of the truth. Those who disagree with his presentation will be hard pressed to finish the book; I know it was an extraordinary effort for me to complete it. Somewhere in his diatribe of complaints and protestations, there are some facts worthy of consideration and thought.
He presided as Secretary of the Treasury during a troubled time, but it was not a surprise for him. He knew the playing field when he accepted the position as Obama knew what awaited him when he ran for office. To pretend differently, is to be intellectually dishonest. Geithner uses hackneyed phrases and trite references to illustrate his points. His language is crude and I often found it offensive.
Although he was supposed to be non-partisan in the post he occupied, his decisions were most often made for political reasons, whether it was because of those around him or himself, that was the end result. The security of the country and the well being of the people often took a back seat to the personal demands of the powers that be. To Geithner, there were no differences of opinion, rather there were those who didn’t understand the problem and those who simply wanted to thwart the efforts of the President he revered so highly, those who simply refused to do anything that might advance his agenda. Often, opposition was not given a chance to even voice an opinion, and therefore, the opposition refused to march lock step, like lemmings, to support his wishes. He insulted those who disagreed with him and even when he admitted that his fellow democrats were also intransigent, he always offered a codicil which reinforced his belief that the Republicans were far worse. Geithner adores Elizabeth Warren, and I was getting the feeling that he was promoting her, if not in the next Presidential election contesting Hillary Clinton’s run, than in the one after it, in 2020.
Geithner had to face the danger of a situation which might cause the nationalization of the banks, the default of the government with a government shutdown, the mortgage meltdown, the failure of Dodd/Frank, a time of enormous unemployment and the smallest workforce in recent history. He witnessed bank failures and a sinking car industry. He tried to prevent the failure of Bear Stearns and Aig. He watched as Lehman failed. He was not empowered to save them with an infusion of money, and yet, after that failure, the law was changed. Was that by design? He saved Fannie and Freddie, even though Senator Frank presented their balance sheet as solvent when he appeared on television, contrary to the reality of their state of affairs.
He was stubborn and uncompromising most of the time. He uses the book to praise Obamas achievements, although he is becoming better known for his fund-raising and campaign skills, rather than for his ability to govern, take charge, and/or offer Americans a sense of safety. He often seems distracted and unaware of the importance of his job and how he presents himself to the world, with strength or with weakness, and he often takes the weakest approach and reduces America’s influence on world events, but to Geithner, Obama’s failures are due to his enemies. To accomplish his goals, Geithner often threatens his opponents with repercussions and/or uses the race card to change the narrative, when in fact it is his policy not his color that is at issue. Geithner expresses distrust and dislike for the Tea Party because they oppose his policies and he hates the inability of Congress to act effectively. The Tea Party is becoming the replacement for Tina Fey’s Sarah Palin as an object of scorn. He blames the GOP and pretty much gives the “Donkeys” a pass, even though Senator Reid has not even allowed many of the recommendations of those on the right to be brought up and considered for a vote in the Senate.
Although Geithner did achieve some positive results, he blames his failures on others, even as he admits them. The book was therefore redundant and, at times, boring. He too often tried to prop himself up, even as he complained that he was unqualified for the jobs thrust upon him. His humility did not seem genuine since he often threw mud at others to explain his failures. If you disagreed with him, you were wrong, evil, disruptive, a saboteur. Both Geithner and Obama ridicule those that do not agree with them. Compromise and negotiation do not seem to be their strong skills. I felt that retribution was the objective, rather than the accomplishment of goals through conciliation.
He seemed to ignore the amoral behavior of those who brought down our financial system, like the over leveraged and under “down-paymented” home owners, and the politicians who passed laws that practically forced the banks to make loans to unqualified buyers. He supported those who gamed and raped the system, bailing them out while standing by as those who followed the rules were got hurt and were forced to take up the burden for those who brought about the debacle. He was completely unrealistic about what was right and wrong and just wanted to deal with the problems of “left and right”. Pretty much, the only politicians he embraced were left of left. He makes a statement that President Obama believed policy would trump politics which is contrary to a White House that dwells on optics and party politics, first and foremost.
For sure, I did not understand all of the information presented, but I did get the main idea and was very disappointed by the presentation. A government which is supposed to represent everyone was being advised by someone who seemed to believe his most important job was to protect the President, rather than the country. He spent most of his time bashing Republicans and praising Obama and the Democrats. It was the most partisan presentation of any book I have read by a government servant. He was a cheerleader for himself and the sacrifices of his wife and family, and for what he perceived as a President who was trying to do right by the country. Today, it would seem that the situation in the world may fly in the face of that premise.
In summary, the book is basically a defense of his behavior during the banking crisis which required an enormous stimulus to prevent a depression, which it did successfully. He largely ignores the responsibility of his own party in bringing about this debacle for Americans to face. He complains about his work load, an intransigent Congress, the morass of the political process, and his lack of family contact. He pretends to be unbiased, but he “protests too much”. He completely disregarded the culpability of the Democrats when they repealed Glass-Steagall which helped to bring about the banking debacle that created a situation which almost destroyed the world’s economy as well as our own.
If you are a liberal and really want to read this book, make sure you select the print copy. The audio is not the way to go. It is a cure for insomnia.