Jack Lew

His record from the past decade includes plenty of markings that should have given Democrats pause.

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Two years ago I was interviewing Tim Geithner when he started ticking off the ways he was poorly suited to being Treasury secretary late in Obama’s first term. Above all, he said, was the fact that the job was increasingly focused on questions of values and ideology—how the government should spend its scarce resources, who should get the shaft and who should pick up the tab—whereas Geithner saw himself as a financial technocrat. “A huge part of the economic challenge the president faces on this stuff is that it’s going to be at the center of the political debate,” he told me.

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A Team of Rivals might work for the economy, but not foreign policy.

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On Sunday, The Washington Post published a long, blow-by-blow of last summer’s negotiations between Barack Obama and John Boehner over a $4 trillion deficit deal. The take-away from the piece is that Obama had a chance at a deal involving $800 billion in tax increases and trillions in spending cuts (including cuts to sacred programs like Medicare and Social Security), but that he got cold feet and backed away.

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Obama’s Worst Year

Shortly after four o’clock on the afternoon of Wednesday, April 13, 2011, U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner walked down the hallway near his office toward a large conference room facing the building’s interior. He was accompanied by a retinue of counselors and aides. When they arrived in the room—known around Treasury simply as “the large”—four people were seated at a long walnut table on the side near the door.

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Just wanted to follow-up on yesterday’s Jack Lew post to clarify the point I was making: One common reaction to the Lew announcement, voiced by liberals like Salon’s Glenn Greenwald, is to groan that Obama has just replaced one former banker (Bill Daley) with another, as Lew spent two years at Citigroup before joining the administration in late 2008.  My feeling about this is twofold: First, liberals aren’t wrong to groan.

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Before we get to whether liberals will warm to Jack Lew, the incoming White House chief of staff, in a way they never did to his just-ousted predecessor, Bill Daley, it's worth pointing out that Lew is absolutely beloved by the president and the top West Wing operatives.

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President Obama this week did exactly what he promised to do last week: He proposed a way to pay for his jobs bill. In particular, he suggested raising taxes on the wealthy and then using the money to offset the cost of school building, payroll tax breaks, and other expenditures designed to boost the economy. He also invited the congressional super-committee to come up with alternatives, as long as they generate the same amount in combined savings and revenue.  Republicans were quick to pounce: Obama wants to raise taxes! Instead of saving the economy, he's going to kill it!

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The emerging, if still tentative, conventional wisdom about the debt ceiling agreement is that Democrats may ultimately prefer the plan’s automatic spending cuts to whatever cuts the new super-committee proposes. As you probably know, the agreement calls for what’s basically a two-step process: A bipartisan, 12-member committee will consider ways of reducing the deficit.

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The Coming Budget War

When President Obama sends his latest budget proposal to Congress on Valentine’s Day, how will we know whether he is floating a serious proposal or just playing politics? I’ve written a guide to help TNR’s readers figure it out. In its latest long-term budget and economic estimates, the CBO looks at our fiscal future in two different ways. Its “baseline” budget assumes that current law does not change. Under that scenario, the deficit declines to about 3 percent of GDP by mid-decade and remains there until the end of the ten-year budget window.

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