It's rarely much fun to watch government officials testify before Congress. But Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas) managed to add a charge to a hearing held Thursday morning by the Joint Economic Committee when he told Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner that bailouts and rising unemployment had eroded lawmakers' and taxpayers' confidence in him. He then asked him to resign.

"Mr. Secretary, you are the point person on the economy, and the buck, in effect, stops with you," Brady said. "For the sake of our jobs, will you step down from your post?"



Geithner quickly dismissed Brady's request. "It is a great privilege to serve this president," he said. "Almost nothing in what you said represents a fair and accurate of where this economy is today," he added, responding to Brady's critiques of the White House's handling of the recession.

Brady blasted back, pointing out that Geithner's role as president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York during the early stages of the financial crisis gave him a seat at the table as bailouts of Bear Stearns and other Wall Street giants were crafted.

In his own defense, Geithner said measures such as the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, and other programs set up by the Treasury Department and Federal Reserve to keep bruised banks afloat "were absolutely necessary to breaking the back of this financial panic."

Furthermore, Geithner said, it was Henry Paulson, his predecessor as Treasury Secretary, and former President George W. Bush who deserve the bulk of any blame for the state of the economy and for the bailouts' shortcomings. "You gave this president an economy falling off the cliff," he said.

The exchange continued for several minutes before committee chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) ended it, banging her gavel and shouting "time has expired!"

Sharp words between a congressman and a cabinet member might make for compelling television, at least by C-SPAN standards. But does this tussle help shed any light on the nation's mood when it comes to the recession?

Recent public opinion surveys mixed readings on the public's opinion of President Obama's job as steward of the economy. A recent Quinnipiac University poll showed just 43 percent of Americans approved the job he's done on that front.

Meanwhile, a Washington Post survey conducted around the same time found Obama enjoyed a 51 percent approval rating on the economy. That poll has returned nearly identical results on that question every month since July.

Whether those numbers hold steady will probably help determine whether Geithner faces more calls like Brady's anytime soon.

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