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A Tale of Two Treasury Secretaries

Treasury Secretaries, Hank Paulson and Robert Rubin.
Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Treasury Secretaries, Hank Paulson and Robert Rubin.

As the nation hurtles toward the fiscal cliff, can two of the country's most notable financial minds help find a way out?

The stakes will be high for former Treasury secretaries Hank Paulson and Robert Rubin as we task them with, among other things, figuring out how to avoid the fiscal cliff of rising taxes and falling government spending amid weak economic growthand strong political passions on both sides in an election year.

They hail from different eras and from different parties but succeeded in their day in navigating Washington and Wall Street during historic times. The two former Goldman Sachs top executives have rarely appeared on the same stage together. They will on Wednesday at "Delivering Alpha,"the second-annual CNBC-Institutional Investor conference.

After a long and successful career on Wall Street, Paulson became Treasury secretary under President George W. Bush just as the financial world began a historic tailspin. Together with Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, Paulson engineered a bailout that has been credited with saving the nation's financial industry but sharply criticized for enriching bankers and investors at taxpayer expense.

Rubin, who served under President Bill Clinton, presided over an era that was at the time hailed for prosperity and deregulation, especially in the financial sector, which has become controversial since the financial crisis. He also had his own run-in with bailouts, including the Mexican peso crisisand Long-Term Capital Management.

While the past will be interesting fodder for discussion, the future is what counts. From Europe to China to the United States, the key will be whether their combination of experience and expertise in politics and finance can help plot a course through the difficult decisions that lie ahead for the nation and the world.