Posted Friday, Aug. 20, 2010, at 9:04 AM
Jackie Calmes looks into a strange phenomenon, one I'd been noticing, too -- why people think Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner once worked for Goldman Sachs, even though he didn't.
For an August 2009 Wall Street Journal webcast interview, Mr. Geithnertook questions submitted by online readers. Since "you were/are a partof" Goldman, one questioner wrote, was it not "a textbook example ofpolitical corruption" that as Treasury secretary Mr. Geithner nowfunneled money to the bank to benefit himself "and your old buddies."
Mr. Geithner, smiling wanly, said he had never worked for Goldman nordid he own stock. As for Goldman’s government money, he said the bankhad repaid taxpayers with a return exceeding 20 percent.
Nine months later, it was the turn of the CBS newsman Harry Smith. "People look at you and they say, 'There’s aGoldman Sachs guy who’s running the Treasury Department,’ " Mr. Smithbegan.
Calmes does good work calling out the media figures who perpetuated the myth, but it's pretty obvious why so many people believe it. Hank Paulson, Geithner's predecessor, came from Goldman, and he installed some allies from Goldman at Treasury despite his awareness that the company elicited conspiracy theories about its control of the financial industry. (Remember, Paulson was legally bound not to work with Goldman as Treasury Secretary, but got a waiver during the financial meltdown.) Most people don't know much about who runs what at various levels of government. They associate Goldman with Treasury. So Geithner gets the blowback.