In the past we've had some harsh words about Tim Geithner, the President of the New York Fed and now Barack Obama's choice to head the treasury department. As Jim said on tonight's show, however, we're going to keep an open mind and give Geithner a chance. Jim predicted Geithner would get tapped for Treasury, and though we had hoped for someone else, we're giving Geithner the benefit of the doubt.
We don't want to second guess President-Elect Obama on this one. Whether you voted for the guy or not, he clearly knows what he's about and wouldn't have picked Geithner for such an important post if he didn't have good reason to. That's especially the case given that Geithner was one of the key guys behind the decision to let Lehman go under, a decision universally recognized by everyone outside the administration, as an enormous blunder.
As Jim said tonight, perhaps Geithner was simply influenced by Paulson and Bernanke, both more powerful than he is, on the Lehman question and numerous others. I have another theory. Even though no one involved with the decision to let Lehman die has admitted it was a mistake publicly, perhaps Geithner has done so with Obama and his advisors in private.
If Geithner's half as smart as people say he is, then surely he's learned from the Lehman debacle. We wanted someone who'd gotten Lehman right. But perhaps it's better to have a Treasury Secretary who got it wrong and knows the tremendous costs of letting the wrong companies fail. A guy who feels personally responsible for one incredibly damaging error and doesn't want to repeat it.
With the financials under siege -- Citigroup an under $5 stock, Morgan Stanley barely holding out above $10, Goldman below $60, and JP Morgan taking a terrible beating as well, and the autos in desperate need of assistance, we need a Treasury Secretary who will prevent another financial catastrophe. Jim has said that
letting General Motors die would be like getting hit with two Lehmans, something we desperately want to avoid.
Who knows, maybe Geithner's learned this lesson better than anybody because of his involvement in the decision to let Lehman go under, making him the perfect man for the job.
Cliff Mason is the Senior Writer of CNBC's Mad Money w/Jim Cramer, and has been that program's primary writer, in cooperation with and under the supervision of Jim Cramer, since he began at CNBC as an intern during the summer of 2005. Mason was the author of a column at TheStreet.com during 2007, which he describes as "hilarious, if short-lived." He graduated from Harvard College in 2007. It was at Harvard that Mason learned to multi-task, mastering the art of seeming to pay attention to professors while writing scripts for Mad Money. Mason has co-written two books with Jim Cramer: Jim Cramer's Mad Money: Watch TV, Get Richand Stay Mad For Life: Get Rich, Stay Rich (Make Your Kids Even Richer). He is 100% responsible for any parts of either book that you did not like.
Mason has also had a fruitful relationship with Jim Cramer as his nephew for the last 23 years and will hopefully continue to hold that position for many more as long as he doesn't do anything to get himself kicked out of the family.
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