Geithner Reportedly Toys With Stepping Down, So Now What?

What should his next move be, and how should Obama approach selecting a new Treasury Secretary?

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The debt ceiling fiasco may be the final battle that Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner fights. Reports indicate that he's mulling stepping down once the latest problem the Obama administration faces has been dealt with. His family is moving back to New York, so he'll soon have a pretty brutal commute. His potential departure raises a number of questions for both Geithner and the president.

Just to be clear, Geithner has not stated that he is stepping down. In fact, he's stated that he intends to stay on the job for the "foreseeable future." Of course, he really can't really say he's leaving right now. If Republicans know they're dealing with a sort of lame duck Treasury Secretary, then they'll feel even less compelled to strike a deal favorable to the administration. Since Geithner can't weaken Obama's economic team at a time like this, he shouldn't admit that his departure is imminent even if it is.

What's Geithner's Next Move?

Once Geithner does step down, he'll have to make one central choice: does he finally spend some time in the private sector, or does he remain a public servant? Virtually his entire career has been spent working government or regulatory jobs. He has said that he loves public service, but financial firms will almost certainly be clamoring to bring him on board.

Are there really any public sector jobs much more exciting than being the Treasury Secretary? Other than chairman of the Federal Reserve, there's no near-equal in the U.S. And since current Fed Chair Ben Bernanke has a couple years left in his term, Geithner would likely have to look to global regulators to find something at his level.

Then, there's the midpoint between the public and private sectors: academia. He could easily slide into a teaching job if he wants to go that route. If no desirable high-level regulator job is open at the moment, a university could make for a nice, relaxing transition when in-between high-stress gigs.

But if Geithner wants to make money -- a lot of money -- then he should have ample opportunity to do so. It's hard to imagine that there's a big bank out there that wouldn't be psyched to provide a seven- or eight-figure salary for his knowledge and connections.

Really, Geithner should just get a job at Goldman Sachs. After all, everyone already thinks he's worked there, so he might as well actually do so and make the big bucks that the public has crucified him for having earned as a Goldman employee. It's sort of like the Ashley Judd movie Double Jeopardy. She already did the jail time for murdering her dirtbag husband, so she didn't feel so bad about actually killing him at the end.

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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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