Former Treasury Secretaries Robert Rubin, Hank Paulson and Tim Geithner are all in agreement about what is ailing the U.S. and it certainly isn’t the fiscal policies being deployed by the executive branch: It’s the dysfunction in Congress.
Appearing together on a panel at the 2015 Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills on Monday, Geithner cited the “appalling” ineffectiveness of Congress as a major obstacle to prosperity in the U.S. Paulson added that the political landscape in Washington will need to be reformed before any major progress can be made on entitlement reform. Meanwhile, Rubin blamed “the social media” for stoking some of the political dysfunction, which was an interesting take considering the panel was being moderated by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg.
Amid all the gloom and doom, it was Geithner’s furrowed brow and pessimism about … well … everything that became a hot topic at the conference throughout the rest of the day. Harvard professor Niall Ferguson, while moderating a later panel, even went so far as to wonder aloud if Geithner was somehow just trying to be sarcastic. On the topic of Geithner’s repeated shots at Congress, one conference attendee commented, “He’s got to let it go. He can’t keep slamming them like that. It’s not healthy.”
When the conversation turned to actual economic policies, Paulson was quick to squash any fears about China’s holdings of U.S. debt, explaining that China has no interest in seeing a U.S. economic collapse because the two countries fiscal fates are so intertwined. Paulson also repeated a refrain from when he was in office, calling for policymaking tools to catch up with the needs of today’s policymakers.
Watch the full video of the panel below: