“Our political system today looks terrible”

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10 years after the 2008 financial crisis, former Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner is issuing a stern warning to Congress and the “fevers of political extremism”.

A broken government can kill the economy.

“The major economic disappointments of our time are not primarily about a failure of ideas,” Geithner said at a dinner in New York on Tuesday where he received a public service award. “They are primarily a failure of the ability to get the most sensible ideas through this damaged and broken political system.”

Geithner was the architect of the government’s response to the financial crisis as Chairman of the New York Federal Reserve and President Obama’s first Treasury Secretary from 2009 to 2013. He was a key player in the New York Fed York during the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008 and the subsequent major bank bailouts and mergers during the crisis.

“I had the exceptional privilege of working with [Treasury Secretary] Hank Paulson and [Fed Chairman] Ben Bernanke through the most heartbreaking moments of the financial crisis,” Geithner said. “We tried to honor Roosevelt’s imperative during the Great Depression that the country needed bold, persistent experimentation.”

Related: Geithner Takes a Private Equity Job

He compared his time at the Treasury and the Fed in Congress, calling them “two different worlds.”

“The policy is mainly about competence,” he said. “This approach to governance contrasted sharply with how Congress often approached its responsibilities.”

Treasury and Fed colleagues were “talented and ethical” and the culture was “not favorable to peacocks or morons.” The agencies resisted “short-term politics and the temptations of anything”.

Geithner expressed optimism that the “pragmatic core of the American political ideal” would return and that the “capable people” in government would reassert themselves.

For this to happen, however, “we must protect the essential foundations of capable government: the ability to attract experienced, talented and pragmatic people into public service.”

Related: Geithner Says “I’ll Carry The Burden” Of AIG Forever

At the Treasury, Geithner guided the Obama administration’s efforts to bail out the US auto industry and implement TARP, a massive stimulus package to revive the economy. Geithner helped design “stress tests” of the biggest banks to ensure they could survive further financial turmoil.

Geithner has spent most of his career in government, joining the Treasury Department in 1988. He served as a top aide to Treasury Secretaries Robert Rubin and Larry Summers.

CNN Money (New York) First published February 7, 2018: 11:53 a.m. ET

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