The Washington Times - March 12, 2009, 01:22PM

Will the real Timothy Geithner please stand up? Is what we’ve seen thus far the true Geithner, his disembodied spirit, or is he in fact a disembodied spirit? I’m going with the apparition. Which begs the question, is he the ghost of economies past, present or future? No one, not even him, seems to know. As spirits go, they’re partly transparent — sometimes seen without being heard or heard without being seen. Geithner is good at both.

President Barack Obama’s opened his economic briefing Wednesday at “a[n] obvious critical time in the world’s economy,” he said and handed it over to Geithner, on the heels of his visit to the G20 Summit. Watching the brief, bumbling and wholly unimpressive remarks by the Treasury secretary, left me in wonderment —- just who was there? I’m thinking: “I can see you, lips are moving, but I can’t really hear you.” With all the government spending, talk of transparency, bank bailouts that have gone bust, more questions than answers during his not so informational announcement to unveil the administration’s economic plan, surely the Treasury secretary would use the briefing as an opportunity to provide more clarity to the murkiness surrounding his ghostliness. 

“Everything we do in the United States will be more effective if we have the world moving with us.”

Pretty vague. Anything else?

“We have a lot of work to do, but I think we can make a lot of progress.”

Wow. And just how will we do that? Can you offer some specifics? No, that was it!  With just a few pat lines in under ten seconds, Geithner was done. Ghosts (like magicians) are great at illusional mind tricks — saying something without saying anything at all. The money man with his own money problems took no questions from reporters and left President Obama offering “just one last point” in an attempt to elaborate on what Geithner could have offered:

“We have already started laying the groundwork. you’re starting to see a lot of coordination at various levels, both in terms of financial regulators and those who are shaping potential stimulus packages in their own countries.”

So that’s the answer, not only are we now in the trillions worth of stimulus and pork spending, but we’re encouraging other countries (some of whom we’re indebted to), to do the same thing. Now that’s a plan! I’m no economist, but that sounds a little reckless and condescending. With the madman Madoff sent off to a jail cell, approximately $1.2 trillion dollars in spending signed into law by President Obama just inside of 50 days, banks using bailout money for more bonuses and oversees investing, Americans are sick and tired of being sick and tired. The last thing they need is more double-talk from the man at the top. Former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson was no genius either  — in fact Geithner is his protegee — but at least Paulson wasn’t afraid to speak up, held regular briefings himself and routinely took questions from the press.

Economically speaking, the experts aren’t impressed with Geithner either. A Wall Street Journal poll of economists give Geithner a failing grade of 51 out of 100. Even the inept Paulson, who recently told FOX News “you don’t regret what you can’t stop,” got a higher rating (57) than Geitner. As the National Review online reported:

“The economists’ criticism focused on delays in enacting key parts of plans to rescue banks and the confusion following each of Geithner’s talks.. The result: the Dow Jones Industrial average is down almost 20 percent since the announcement, a sign of shaken investors’ confidence.”

GOP spinners insist that economist opinions don’t count for much politically except when it impacts what average folks think and that, they say, works in their favor. When folks feel like the economy is not improving, it stands to reason, it will hurt President Obama politically. And just how are average folks feeling right about now? While voters still rate the economy as their top concern and according to Rasmussen a majority of Americans (60 percent) feel the country is headed in the wrong direction, a mere 23 percent of those polled said they believe that government represents the will of the people. In other words, a majority of Americans (no big surprise here) have NO confidence in Uncle Sam. This lends credence to Ronald Reagan’s warning:

“The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’”

It wasn’t the people’s will to bail out the big banks, it wasn’t the people’s will to add spending bill after spending bill that include plans to increase taxes, and it’s not the people’s will to add to the mounting deficit. But that hasn’t stopped the government or its top money man from “doing what’s best,” for the American people without regard for the will people. Transparency be damned.

Ironically, no matter how “average” folks feel about the economic mess, the president’s approval numbers remain relatively high. By most accounts folks are willing to give him the benefit of the doubt even if they don’t agree with his decisions and have disdain for his Treasury chief. It’s proof enough for some that the public is willing to give Geithner, at the very least, a ghost of a chance. But for how long? With all the press pontificating about how long Michael Steele will last at the RNC, perhaps the question should be directed to the man who is actually having an impact on our pocketbooks. Funny thing is — you can feel him, you know he’s there, and see money floating around like vapor — but the Ghost of Geithner remains elusive.

Where’s a good Ghost Whisperer when you need one?

Tara Wall is editor of