Posts Tagged ‘Romer’

The Secretary of the Treasury is a comedian as well as a tax cheat. At least that’s the only rational interpretation of his recent statements in Europe, where he used the do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do routine while pretending to tell the Europeans to be fiscally responsible. The Wall Street Journal, in keeping with the deadpan style of the gig, reported Geithner’s comments as if they represented serious advice: “U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner landed in Europe and reasserted a traditional American role of dispenser of financial advice to the world, telling European governments to get their fiscal houses in order.”

The key to any good monologue, though, is knowing how to follow one joke with another. Geithner did not disappoint. He then did a 180-degree turn, leaving the audience rolling in the aisles by urging spending and bailout policies directly at odds with his previous joke: “Mr. Geithner pushed continental Europe to speed up the rescue of debt-laden economies, and to not stint on fiscal stimulus.”

Geithner may have been the headliner, but the Wall Street Journal also reported on some of the warm-up acts, including a so-so performance from Christina Romer, Chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisors. Romer doesn’t have Geithner’s advantage of simultaneously being a tax cheat and being in charge of tax enforcement, so she’s tried to carve out an interesting niche in the world of humor by pushing for policies that contradict her academic writings. It’s unclear whether her reference to “pulling out” was an attempt to be risque (perhaps influenced by the President’s naughty use of the “teabagger” phrase), but here’s how the the WSJ covered her stand-up routine: “She told reporters that she, too, would warn European and other countries against pulling out of their stimulus plans too quickly. ‘There’s a certain amount of rush for the exits on fiscal policy,’ Ms. Romer said.”

Perhaps not surprisingly, some critics failed to undersand the subtle use of humor and irony by Obama officials and actually took the comments seriously. The article reports on a wet-blanket reaction from one think tank representative: “For Geithner critics, the new U.S. assertiveness is misplaced. Desmond Lachman, a former senior IMF European official who is now a researcher at the American Enterprise Institute, said the repeated bailouts engineered by Mr. Geithner have made the overall problem worse, and that the U.S. advice of providing even more financing for heavily indebted countries like Greece is bound to fail.”

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