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Lew, Bowles Rumored To Replace Treasury's Geithner

A second term means some new Cabinet appointments for President Obama, including at the Treasury. After four pretty grueling years, Secretary Timothy Geithner has made it clear he will be leaving Washington.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said last week that Geithner would be staying on through the inauguration. He's also expected to be a "key participant" in "fiscal cliff" negotiations.

The Treasury secretary was arguably the most important Cabinet post in the first Obama administration. Geithner had wobbly banks, auto bailouts and the Great Recession on his plate. The next secretary will face big challenges too, beginning with the fiscal cliff and working with Republicans to craft a "grand bargain" on deficit reduction.

It's not surprising that there's been a lot of talk about Erskine Bowles as a replacement for Geithner. Bowles was chairman of the president's deficit reduction panel, the Simpson-Bowles commission. Speaking on Charlie Rose's show last March, Bowles outlined the content of a good budget deal.

"Any of them that don't address defense, any of them that don't address Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and don't reform the tax code and aren't balanced in some way between that, aren't serious," he said.

Bowles was a chief of staff for President Clinton. He's also a former investment banker and is popular with Republicans and on Wall Street. But hehas criticized President Obama's budget publicly while praising Paul Ryan's.

A more likely choice might be Jack Lew, the current White House chief of staff and formerly the president's budget director. In April 2011, he discussed overhauling Social Security:

"It's never really moved the debate forward for one side or another to put a plan out there. It's only really worked well when the parties come together; that's what happened in 1983," he said.

Lew worked on that 1983 Social Security fix as an aide to House Speaker Tip O'Neill. He has Capitol Hill experience and the budget expertise to tackle the big issues that are on the Treasury's plate. And he's got a good working relationship with the president.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

John Ydstie
John Ydstie has covered the economy, Wall Street, and the Federal Reserve at NPR for nearly three decades. Over the years, NPR has also employed Ydstie's reporting skills to cover major stories like the aftermath of Sept. 11, Hurricane Katrina, the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal, and the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. He was a lead reporter in NPR's coverage of the global financial crisis and the Great Recession, as well as the network's coverage of President Trump's economic policies. Ydstie has also been a guest host on the NPR news programs Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition. Ydstie stepped back from full-time reporting in late 2018, but plans to continue to contribute to NPR through part-time assignments and work on special projects.

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