Tim Geithner's Pathetic Case for Optimism

Welcome to the Recovery! Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner offers his warmest regards and greetings to America in a New York Times op-ed that reminds me: administration officials should never write op-eds. Newspapers don't publish press releases written by Tim Geithner's staff. Why do they publish op-eds written by Tim Geithner('s staff)?

The secretary ticks off a few reasons why Americans should be happy about the economy, but most of the good news is either specific to certain industries (manufacturing exports are up, and banks are stronger) or double-edged swords with particularly sharp opposite edges. For example:

• Businesses have repaired their balance sheets and are now in a strong financial position to reinvest and grow.

• The auto industry is coming back, and the Big Three -- Chrysler, Ford and General Motors -- are now leaner, generating profits despite lower annual sales.

In other words: Businesses have laid off millions of workers. So even with all those workers not buying much in terms of goods and services, companies can still turn a profit. Take Geithner's Ford example. The company's North American revenue is down $20 billion since 2005, but that's OK because it's slashed its stateside workforce by a whopping 50%. Yes, welcome to the recovery!

I would forgive the secretary's soft bias in favor of optimism if it were paired with serious ideas for making the economy better. Instead, we get a check-the-boxes sentence about state aid and infrastructure buried at the end of paragraph 20 of 24.

Look, Democrats are going to lose a bushel of seats in November no matter what they write for the New York Times. And I get that it's empty to ask the White House to "fight" for stimulus when moderate Senate Democrats won't pick up their weapons. But this op-ed just seems somewhat (I usually hate to use this word) weak. The White House faces public distrust and congressional stalemate. So it retreats to the most liberal corner of the media and politely saves its only argument for Paragraph 20. Americans don't trust the White House on the economy. Could you blame them?