LARRY SUMMERS: I hope not. I hope there are issues that we can work on together. There are going to be some issues where there's disagreements probably going to be intractable. Let me give you an example of an issue where I hope we can work together. We've got record unemployment in construction. We've got extraordinarily high, by historical standards, even though they've come down, prices for heating oil and for other fuels, and we've got across this country tens of millions of homes where investments in energy efficiency will pay off in the payback period of three years or five years or seven years. And any business would make any investment that had a pay-back period of three or five years. But those business investments aren't happening.
So we're seeking to partner with the major suppliers of the equipment that's used in that, the major purveyors of those kind of services, insulation and so forth, with strong tax incentives to both -- to do three things: to put people back to work, to create an important economic benefit for homeowners, and to make the country more energy independent and less of a contributor to climate change.
Now that's not some new public sector program; that's something that works through the private sector that we envision doing with businesses that involves in part credits that are provided. That seems to me, and we've gotten some positive indications, to be the kind of thing we ought to be able to work on in a bipartisan way.
KAREN FINERMAN: Let me just switch gears again. Tim Geithner. You have an interesting history with Tim Geithner. You are clearly working together now. But is the relationship one where you're still the mentor and he's the protege' or -- what is the relationship?
LARRY SUMMERS: Tim and I have been good friends and close colleagues for many -- for many, many years. Many, many years. Many years ago he worked in the Treasury Department when I was Secretary, but it's a very different world now. He's probably the most experienced crisis fighter in the world after his --
KAREN FINERMAN: More than you? Even after all these chances you've had.
LARRY SUMMERS: -- after his experiences at the New York Fed. And one of the great joys of what is a very challenging job is working with Tim.
KAREN FINERMAN: When you watch him getting absolutely skewered over the AIG bill, what is going through your head when you watch that?
LARRY SUMMERS: The same thing going through my head when I see these things that happen many times in Washington. I wish people, frankly, in the media, could take the trouble to understand the nature of the choices that we're presented, and to recognize that people go into public service with the right kind of motives. Tim Geithner is the only Treasury Secretary this country's ever had who never earned a dollar from the private sector in his time before he became Treasury Secretary. So I -- it gets me angry when I hear some of the things that are said about him.
KAREN FINERMAN: Well, it was interesting to watch, just to see the political process, and I really do believe it's political process at work.
But let me bring you to another question.
This administration has the perception of being anti-business; that it has no CEOs in the cabinet or in senior positions. Why is that perception wrong?
LARRY SUMMERS: You know, I think if you look at the President's schedule, if you look at the speech he gave at the business roundtable, if you look at the half a dozen dinners, lunches, other meetings he's had with groups of business leaders, I would be surprised if there has been any other administration that has spent as much time with business and cooperating with business on issues, whether it is the challenge that businesses have of having lower health insurance premiums, whether it's national challenges that are also huge opportunities for businesses like creating electronic medical records at a time when the average doctor's office has less technology in it than the average 7-Eleven. We're doing a great deal with business.
And I think much more important than the backgrounds which people have -- which they ought to check at the door, frankly, when they come into government -- is the approach that an administration takes. And ours is one of being very much prepared to work with business. But it's also one of recognizing that businesses are citizens, corporations are citizens of the United States, and citizenship comes with privileges. But it also comes with obligations.
KAREN FINERMAN: Let me ask you, in your entire career, what is the worst economic policy decision you've ever made?
LARRY SUMMERS: Oh, you know, I tend to look -- I tend to look -- to look forward, not -- not --
KAREN FINERMAN: But your history --
LARRY SUMMERS: -- I tend to look forward, not to look backwards. From the point of view of our family's personal economy, I'm not sure going into government constituted an terrific economic decision, but it is one that has brought me great satisfaction in working with -- working with a really remarkable president at what I think is a critical time in our country, in our country's history.
KAREN FINERMAN: Does it matter to you what job you have to have your economic voice heard? Let's say Ben Bernanke decides he's going to go up to the White House --
LARRY SUMMERS: I'm just not going to go there. I like what I'm doing. I'm making a -- I feel like I have a chance to make a difference by thinking about the economic questions. And my view is if the President asks me to do something in which I think I can make a contribution, the right approach to it is to say yes, and that's why I'm very pleased to be here working at the National Economic Council.
KAREN FINERMAN: Let's say for whatever reason you had to leave the Obama administration and the President were to say to you --
LARRY SUMMERS: Good try.
KAREN FINERMAN: That wasn't a Bernanke question, wasn't a Fed question.
LARRY SUMMERS: Good try, Karen. I think it's hard enough to try to deal with the actual questions we face without going near hypotheticals.
KAREN FINERMAN: So the last question I'll ask you is --
LARRY SUMMERS: I know, actually, I'm not well trained as a politician. What I should have said in answer to that question is all of the wonderful commentators at CNBC --
KAREN FINERMAN: There you go.
LARRY SUMMERS: -- would really be a place where you would get enormous advise.
KAREN FINERMAN: Right. Right. What is the message that I should bring back to Wall Street? I look at the administration, I'm an investor, I run a hedge fund. That's not a popular thing to be sometimes. What is the message this administration wants to send to Wall Street?
LARRY SUMMERS: Moments of crisis are moments of opportunity and challenge. We should all see the opportunity and we should all recognize the obligations we have to respond to the challenge.
KAREN FINERMAN: All right. Thank you, Larry.
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Trader disclosure: On March 1st, 2010, the following stocks and commodities mentioned or intended to be mentioned on CNBC’s Fast Money were owned by the Fast Money traders; Adami Owns (AGU), (C), (GS), (INTC), (MSFT), (NUE), (BTU); Kaminsky Owns (EPV); Kaminsky Owns (LULU) Puts; Najarian Owns (BAC) Call Spread; Najarian Owns (INTC) Calls; Najarian Owns (JDSU) Calls; Najarian Owns (MRVL); Najarian Owns (NTAP) Calls; Najarian Owns (AKAM); Najarian Owns (MRVL); Najarian Owns (NTAP) Calls; Seymour Owns (AAPL), (BAC), (F), (INTC), (NIHD); Kelly Owns (FXY) Puts; Finerman's Firm Owns (MIL); Finerman's Firm Owns (OSIP); Finerman's Firm Owns (XBI); Finerman's Firm Owns (IBB); Finerman's Firm Owns (ARG) Calls; Finerman's Firm Owns (GGWPQ); Finerman's Firm Owns (SII) Call Spreads; Finerman's Firm Owns (ACL); Finerman Owns (AAPL); Finerman's Firm And Finerman Own (GOOG); Finerman's Firm Owns (QCOM); Finerman's Firm Owns (BAC), (BAC) Leaps; Finerman Owns (BAC) Preferred, (BAC); Finerman's Firm And Finerman Own (JPM); Finerman's Firm Owns (IBM); Finerman's Firm Owns (MIL); Finerman's Firm Owns (OSIP); Finerman's Firm Owns (XBI); Finerman's Firm Owns (IBB); Finerman's Firm Owns (ARG) Calls; Finerman's Firm Owns (GGWPQ); Finerman's Firm Owns (SII) Call Spreads; Finerman's Firm Owns (ACL);
Terranova Owns (GLD) March Puts; Karabell Owns (RIMM), (UYG), (AAPL), (NOK), (XES), (VALE), (TC); Jon Najarian Owns (AAPL), Is Short (AAPL) Calls; Jon Najarian Owns (BAC), Is Short (BAC) Calls; Jon Najarian Owns (C), Is Short (C) Calls; Jon Najarian Owns (GS), Is Short (GS) Calls; Jon Najarian Owns (MIL), Is Short (MIL) Calls; Jon Najarian Owns (MS), Is Short (MS) Calls; Jon Najarian Owns (QCOM), Is Short (QCOM) Calls; Jon Najarian Owns (RIMM), Is Short (RIMM) Calls; Jon Najarian Owns (WFC), Is Short (WFC) Calls; Jon Najarian Owns (WMT), Is Short (WMT) Calls; Jon Najarian Owns (TSL) Call Spreads; Jon Najarian Owns (SII) Call Spreads; Jon Najarian Owns (CRM) Call Spreads; Jon Najarian Owns (MU) Call Spreads; Nations Owns (MSFT), (SPY)
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