Timothy Geithner's Task: Tackling 'Deep Mess'

Treasury Secretary Geithner and the economy

Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner has said the economy was "a deep mess" when he took over the embattled department 100 days ago in January.

Such a description could be an understatement when your new job responsibility is solving the nation's worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, especially when condidering what Geithner has endured in his first few months in office.

The most high-profile of President Obama's Cabinet members, the Treasury chief has wrestled with a roller coaster stock market, a massive corporate bonus scandal and intense criticism, including calls for his resignation.

All this comes along with a staggering array of government programs to fix the financial crisis, including an enormous stimulus package, an ambitious plan to rid banks of their bad assets, a sweeping regulatory reform proposal, a major lending initiative and crucial programs to help millions of struggling homeowners and small businesses.

Geithner's Rocky Road: Tax Problems, Botched Announcement

But perhaps it was an indication of the rocky road that lay ahead for Geithner when he was embroiled in a row about unpaid taxes before he could even take over at Treasury.

His failure to pay $40,000 in taxes earlier this decade almost derailed his Senate confirmation. But Geithner said he had eventually paid the money. He apologized for the mishap and was ultimately approved by lawmakers.

It would not be his last run-in with leaders on Capitol Hill.

Weeks later, the new Treasury boss once again found himself in the spotlight -- and the glare of TV cameras -- as he began to lay out the administration's financial stability plan in a much-anticipated, roll-out that flopped.

Details were scarce. Investors bailed. Stocks plummeted.

"Last night, the president said you would be very clear and there would be specific plans," Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., told Geithner at a Senate hearing that day. "And today we lost probably a trillion dollars in the market as people looked for those very clear and specific plans and instead heard guidelines and some platitudes."

Geithner was hardly helped by a bare bones staff at his disposal, which Paul Volcker, an economic adviser to President Obama, denounced as "shameful."

The Devil Is in the Details: Stocks Soar on News of New Programs

Despite the roadblocks, clear and specific plans would soon follow: On Feb.18, the administration unveiled its housing plan; on Feb. 25, its plan to subject the nation's 19 biggest banks to "stress tests" to ensure that they have enough capital; on March 3, its plan to unlock frozen credit markets and increase consumer and business lending.

And, as more details emerged, more investors jumped back into the markets.

The six-week period starting March 9 was the best for Wall Street since back in 1938.

"You've seen this administration work at a pace I don't think ever before seen in history, moving very quickly," Geithner said last month. "What I want people to know is that we're going to do what's necessary to get through it."

More Problems: The AIG Bonuses

But even as the Treasury Department trotted out its new programs, another scandal threatened to trip up the Geithner era.

In mid-March, news broke that insurance giant AIG, the recipient of more than $180 billion in government aid, had dished out $165 million in retention payments for executives, provoking outrage nationwide.

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