It is a sad spectacle. After elbowing their way onto the House Oversight Committee, it's insanely wealthy and powerful members grabbed their fifteen minutes of fame, held it close, and rubbed their faces all over it. Mugging for the cameras and battling each other for that viral YouTube manna, the sorry kabuki affair is appalling. What has America become? Timothy F. Geithner is the son of an international diplomat, and spent all his formative years outside the US, immersed in education and a family heritage of service to the nation. He grew up in Zimbabwe, Zambia, India and Thailand. He went to High School in Bangkok. He learned Mandarin while attending Peking University. He speaks Japanese. He has degrees in Economics and East Asian studies from Johns Hopkins University. He spent his entire working life in the service of The United States of America, all in finance and economics. If there was an idiosyncratic intellectual all star team, Geithner would be an alternate captain. Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner makes a pretty comfortable living, as the nations Treasury Secretary should. Still, except for the other career administrative shleps, everyone around Geithner has made more money than him, and all have upwardly mobile trajectories. There are people who take orders from him who have made millions. They come from private business, where the same skills and understanding earn vastly more in return. This is the sad predicament for the career civil servant; he toils away in the service of others while the others make all the coin and get all the girls. Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner is not a warm person. He is aloof, small, weird in some hard to put your finger on it kind of way. He looks constantly troubled and impatient. He appears to reserve a special well of disdain for stupid people. This is both funny and entertaining. With everything so achingly obvious to him, he wonders at the inability of others to see what is right before their dull, idiot eyes. He has smokers' teeth. Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner speaks as if his words are trying to catch up to his thoughts. There is a stammer, just waiting to break free. He does not consider in the way of wise old academics, but rather as a man of small voice fighting to be heard. The only thing of value he truly has after a life outside of private enterprise is his character and unwavering loyalty. When these are called into question, Geithner can fill the room with disgust and scornful rebuke. Coiled to defend himself, he looks somewhat mean. As president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Geithner was only two job openings away from done. King of the castle, end of the line. He turned down the offer to be CEO of Citigroup and billions in cash and prizes, and took the job as a salaried man, United States Treasury Secretary, Timothy F. Geithner. He says he did so out of a family sense of loyalty to America, and a lifetime service to its people. That, and insanity are the only plausible reasons to give up the stratosphere as a mighty CEO. And so it one day came to pass that Timothy F. Geithner stepped into history as the man holding the smouldering potato's in the teeth of an unprecedented and fast moving financial tsunami. Did he reflect on that Citigroup gig as he listened to Obama ask him to put his reputation on the line and take the reins at Treasury? What was he thinking about as he watched Hank Paulson, his potential predecessor, face the press corps with no sleep and no respite? All we know is that when the whistle blew, he stepped out of the trenches and onto the fire ravaged open fields. Somehow, some way, Geithner reached the other side. He and a tight collection of the greatest minds in economics and finance pulled the break and saved the train wreck. Every minute was precious, every conversation urgent. There were no precedents, and no old timers to ask for advice. The financial architecture of the world was swaying wildly in the storm, and doing something - anything - was better than watching the whole rickety business tumble apart. So urgent in fact, that political considerations and technical legalize occasionally went by the wayside. It was a "near run thing". It was a god-awful complex clusterfcuk of the highest order. A veritable display case of American power and largesse, blowing up in the staccato clatter of Chinese firecrackers. Boom, boom, boom. Amongst the arrogant masters of the universe, there was fear. Fear...and panic. Fear and panic at the disaster they wrought, the inability to compute the failure; the shameful knowledge that each knew he was to thank...or blame. Every member of the House Oversight Committee splayed out before him as he submitted to testimony profited handsomely from the career of Timothy Geithner. Every home, every political office, every lover was made possible for these "elected" officials of Congress by the world people like Geithner constructed. A world they themselves supported. Not one of them would have known a credit default swap if it drilled them in the head with a snowball, nor would they still had the damn thing not collapsed around them. And yet here they are none the less. Acting as the dull-eyed idiots people like Geithner know them to be. For every hit they garner on YouTube, they add to the indignity that has become America. They are clueless, or just don't give a rats ass. Somewhere out in the great expanse of America, amongst the pride, the power, and the glory, is a man or women of breathtaking capacity to help the people of the world's greatest democracy regain its honor and rightful place in history. Still anonymous amongst the crowd, but eager to make a difference in their world, we do not know their name. And if they watch CSPAN, we never will. Historian, Economist, Accountant, Writer, and blood sucking CEO. Born at the wrong end of the Baby Boom Generation - too late to enjoy the ride, too early to have missed it, and stuck in the middle with the mess.
Aetius writes and blogs from his frozen perch atop the earth in Canada, spending the useful capital of a life not finished making sandwiches and fomenting revolution. It's a living.