There are reasons why you might be dissatisfied with the job Timothy Geithner has done as Treasury Secretary, but his past as a Goldman Sachs banker isn't one of them -- because he never worked there. That's the theme of a rather amusing article in the New York Times today that explains this widespread misconception. Despite article's author Jackie Calmes managing to find numerous examples of people accusing Geithner of working for Goldman, he never even worked as an investment banker or at any other Wall Street firm. So why do people think he did?
The Bank Bailout
Geithner played a pivotal role in the 2008 bank bailout, which leads to the first reason why so many people associate Geithner with Wall Street. At the time he was the president of the New York Federal Reserve, which was in the thick of it. Geithner worked with former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson (an actual Goldman alum) and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke to save the banks and end the financial crisis. This made Geithner appear to be a figure very sympathetic to Wall Street. After all, he helped facilitate a program that resulted in taxpayers loaning big finance hundreds of billions of dollars.
The financial reform battle didn't exactly help to change public perception for Geithner. He was never seen as one of the outspoken leaders who wanted to punish Wall Street. Instead, the Treasury generally advocated sensible, middle-of-the-road reforms that would allow banks to continue to thrive, but hopefully prevent future instability in the financial system. This angered many progressive activists who wanted harsh measures like breaking up banks and prohibiting certain practices entirely. Geithner was even forced to stand back as former Fed chief and current Obama advisor Paul Volcker championed his aggressive approach to limit proprietary trading.