Discussion: Who Should Be the Next Treasury Secretary?

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The position of U.S. Treasury Secretary is expected to become available in coming weeks as current chief Timothy Geithner has made it clear he plans to leave before the start of the Obama administration's second term. Less clear, however, is who the President will choose to replace him, though news outlets are rounding up lists of likely candidates. 

Prior to the presidential election, Dealbook's Andrew Ross Sorkin declared White House Chief of Staff Jacob Lew "most likely to get the job" in the event of a second-term Obama administration. 

"A former lawyer and career technocrat, he does not have much of a business background," Sorkin wrote, though he noted that Lew was briefly chief operating officer of Citigroup's Alternative Investments unit. "But the president is very comfortable with him, and that can go a long way."

Following the election, other news outlets, including Reuters and CNN, also identified Lew as the frontrunner with Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock, and Gary Gensler, chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, as other top contenders. But a (wish) list of less likely candidates has also emerged over the last few days.

Forbes blogger John Wasik makes a convincing case for Sheila Bair, calling the former FDIC chairman "a fearless, intelligent reformer who already knows how banking regulation works — and how it can be simplified and strengthened."

Of course, Bair's recent book "Bull by the Horns" may effectively put her out of the running. As American Banker's Washington Bureau Chief Rob Blackwell notes "it would be hard for Obama to nominate a Secretary who so thoroughly repudiated his past Treasury Secretary."

Atlantic contributor Ben Heineman Jr. says the Obama administration should "seriously consider" New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, citing his extensive government experience, highly successful business career and emphasis on financial discipline as clear "pros" for his appointment.

Heineman does go on to acknowledge the clear counterargument for Bloomberg as Treasury Secretary. That is, his "huge personal wealth" presents a problem under current conflict of interest laws and he has "been reputed to play poorly with others."

And the New York Daily News, perhaps vaulting off of President Obama's post-victory promise to have a sit-down with his opponent, suggests Mitt Romney for the position.   

"For Obama, Romney might be a helpful emissary to business folks," blogger David Swerdlick argues. "And it would send a unifying message — if only a short-term, symbolic one — to the eurozone and BRIC countries".

Other names being debated, for better or worse, by various members of the media include former New York Governor and Attorney General Eliot Spitzer and Erksine Bowles, who co-chaired the President's National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform.  

What's your take on the aforementioned candidates? Who do you think should become the next Treasury Secretary? Let us know in the comments section below.

Jeanine Skowronski is the deputy editor of BankThink. You can contact her at or follow her at Twitter @JeanineSko.


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