Timothy Geithner, the Eddie Haskell Dollar Czar
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner recently stated after a meeting of G-7 financial officials that “it is very important to the United States that we continue to have a strong dollar.”
With comments like this, why does Timothy Geithner remind me so much of Eddie Haskell (played by Ken Osmond) from the 1950s suburban sitcom Leave It to Beaver? Eddie Haskell plays the scheming trouble maker who is extremely polite on the exterior around adults, but reverts to a crafty conniver once the grown-ups leave the room.
I can just picture the conversations between Treasury Secretary Geithner and President Obama before a high powered meeting with Chinese administration officials:
Geithner: “Barack, the skyrocketing debt will be no problem, we can we shovel plenty of this paper on these Chinese.”
Barack: “Uh, oh…Hu is here for our meeting.”
Geithner: “Oh hello Mr. President Jintao – what a lovely trade surplus you have. We look forward to keeping a very fiscally responsible agenda here in the United States, so you can keep buying our valuable debt.”
Where did Timothy Haskell get his crafty dollar oration skills?
According to David Malpass, president of the research firm Encima Global and deputy assistant Treasury Secretary, Geithner training came from “using a code phrase, a carryover from the Bush administration. It means that the U.S. approves of a constantly weakening dollar but doesn’t want a disruptive collapse.”
These tactics and rhetoric can only work for so long. Exploding deficits and skyrocketing debt levels will eventually lead to a dumping of our debt, rising interest rates, crowding-out of private investments, and a damaging decline in the dollar. Sure, the weakening dollar helps us in the short-run with exports but eventually major U.S. debtholders will no longer buy our sweet talking.
With all the “U.S. dollar is going to collapse” talk, one would think a shift to an SDR (Special Drawing Rights) global currency structure is an inevitable outcome. Just six months ago the governor of China’s central bank argued the U.S. dollar’s role as the world’s reserve currency should be restructured. The SDR model has already been implemented by the IMF (International Monetary Fund), so if the Chinese wanted to create an SDR proxy, they could easily purchase euros, sterling, and yen in proper proportions. Would the Chinese want to make any sudden changes? Certainly not, because any quick adjustments would destroy the value of the Chinese’s existing dollar denominated portfolio. The logistics surrounding a legitimate SDR program would require the IMF or some other international agency to act as a global central bank, which would not only need to determine the appropriate mix of currencies in the SDR, but also decide future global liquidity actions. In order to legitimately run a new SDR program, countries like China would need to give up sovereignty – not a likely scenario.
Until a new SDR regime is agreed upon, dollar-reliant countries will continue to have barks bigger than their bites and Timothy Geithner Haskell will continue to sweet talk U.S. dollar owners.
Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®
Plan. Invest. Prosper.
Hear Eddie (or Treasury Secretary) Speak Here: