Geithner must go

Strong advice for President Obama: Remove Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and replace him with former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell as Treasury secretary and former Federal Reserve Board Chairman Paul Volcker as deputy secretary. Name former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle to a full-time post in the White House as a hands-on chairman of the board.

With these powerful reinforcements to the presidential team, the president and Democrats in Congress should wage a relentless battle to create American jobs, protect American consumers, stand up for American workers, promote American small business, defend American taxpayers and make the Treasury a place that protects our people, which today it is not.

Faux populist proposals about a bank tax that will be passed onto and paid by voters will fool no one. Mere photo-ops with Volcker, who was dramatically prominent in the campaign but ignored during the first year of the Obama presidency, will not suffice. Elevating Volcker is wise. Give him the job and the clout.

The president should return to the guiding values of his campaign, backed by the clout of the strongest public figures, fighting without fear for the people.

Timothy Geithner has been the advocate or enabler for almost every major financial policy blunder of the last two decades. He has been the avatar of the Wall Street and banking ethic of “anything goes” and the apologist for the almost universally detested practices of compensation and bonuses.

Geithner has been the watchdog who never watched. The regulator who did not regulate. The cop on the beat so widely seen as the voice of Wall Street against Main Street that presidential advisers have him locked in virtual seclusion, hidden from the sight of intensely unhappy voters.

To voters, under Geithner, the Bush bailout became the Obama bailout. The Geithner who helped devise the bailout under Bush continues his policies under Obama, in a rerun of Einstein’s definition of insanity.

Joblessness punishes workers. Voters punish incumbents. Fear of the future rises. Anger about unfairness climbs ever higher with every new layoff, every new foreclosure, every new abuse by credit card companies, every new excuse for a bailout of banks that refuse to lend, and every new Wall Street bonus under a Treasury secretary who has lost the confidence of the people of the nation.

The continuation of Bush bailout policies under Obama through Geithner ranks as one of the greatest political blunders in the history of the presidency.

Given the strong possibility of a historic realignment for Democrats due to the deep and widespread revulsion against the Bush policies, their continuation under Geithner has transmigrated the well-deserved revulsion from Bush to Obama, and from Republicans to Democrats and incumbents of both parties.

A Mitchell-Volcker-Daschle team would create a powerhouse team for the president that would send a dramatic message that real economic change is finally coming, with real clout from Washington to Wall Street and new credibility with voters.

The president would establish the overriding primacy of bringing the best leaders in the land to the urgent mission of reviving the economy, asking all Americans, including bankers, what they can do for our country, and returning to the first principles of the president’s campaign in the great change election of 2008.

Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and Bill Alexander, then chief deputy majority whip of the House. He holds an LL.M. degree in international financial law from the London School of Economics. He can be read on The Hill’s Pundits Blog and reached at