Will JP Morgan's CEO Be The Next Treasury Secretary?

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Wow, this is a really amusing report from the New York Post. Apparently, some people are pushing for JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon to replace Timothy Geithner as Treasury Secretary. And he might want the job. This is unlikely on so many levels that I hardly know where to begin.

First, here's what the Post says:

As support for Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner wanes on Capitol Hill amid frustration with the Obama administration's handling of the economy, JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon is emerging as a potential replacement.

Sources tell The Post that a number of policy makers have begun mentioning Dimon as a successor to Geithner, whose standing in Washington has suffered because of the country's high unemployment rate, the weakness of the dollar, the slow pace of the recovery and the government's mounting deficit.

For starters, Geithner isn't going anywhere. Anyone who thinks he might be is nuts. He has carried out President Obama's every wish. And the financial markets have been doing considerably better since he took the reins. While the broader economy isn't doing quite as well, the Treasury Secretary has had little control over any of that. He played virtually no role in the stimulus, the decline of the dollar or the deficit. Unless he gets tired of the job, I'd be shocked -- shocked -- to see him ousted. That would make the Obama administration look really bad.

The Post continues:

People familiar with Dimon's thinking said he "would love to serve his country," and in recent weeks Dimon has had a noticeably higher profile in Washington, making frequent visits to government officials and earlier this month publishing an op-ed in the Washington Post that makes the case for letting large institutions that take big risks collapse rather than receive government aid.

And that may be true. Indeed, I recently commented on Dimon's op-ed in the Washington Post. I noted that it was significant that he chose the Post rather than the Wall Street Journal or New York Times. He definitely has an interest in Washington, but right now, it's a vested interest as regulation threatens to altar the landscape that his firm does business in. Whether that interest goes beyond necessity seems speculation.

But it is possible that he'd be up for consideration in 2012, particularly if Obama loses. Here's one argument why he should be considered, from the Post piece:

"It is critical to the standing of the United States in the global financial economy to have a Treasury secretary who has the full support of the president and Congress; a person who has earned respect on their own as a result of hard-won battles in finance to represent this nation," said Dick Bove, a banking industry analyst at Rochdale Securities who this week will publish a report on Dimon. "That is not Timothy Geithner. It is Jamie Dimon."

I mean, not really. Or at least not anytime soon. Most in Washington will still remember the political fallout of Henry Paulson administering bank bailouts after having worked as the CEO of Goldman Sachs prior to his Treasury Secretary role. Dimon showed in that recent op-ed that he still wants to go pretty easy on banks -- and Washington doesn't. A Republican President might be a little more agreeable to someone like Dimon, but unless Republicans also take control of the Senate, confirmation will be an uphill battle.

Besides, Dimon is a Democrat. But he's not liberal enough on financial regulation to satisfy most Democrats. After all, Rep. Kanjorski's (D-PA) bank break-up amendment to the House financial regulation plan passed almost completely on party lines, with Democrats in favor and Republicans opposed. Dimon's op-ed spoke out directly against the idea, which was embraced by Democrats.

So might Dimon be considered one day? Perhaps. Could he really get it? Given the wariness in political circles of the Washington-Wall Street path being a little too well-trodden, I suspect not.

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Daniel Indiviglio was an associate editor at The Atlantic from 2009 through 2011. He is now the Washington, D.C.-based columnist for Reuters Breakingviews. He is also a 2011 Robert Novak Journalism Fellow through the Phillips Foundation. More

Indiviglio has also written for Forbes. Prior to becoming a journalist, he spent several years working as an investment banker and a consultant.
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