Economy & Budget

The trouble with Jack Lew

The trouble with Jack Lew

On Thursday, President Barack Obama nominated Jack Lew, his current chief of staff, to replace Timothy Geithner as the next Secretary of the Treasury. Lew had been with the Office of Management and Budget under both Obama and President Bill Clinton.

Barack Obama is, of course, free to name qualified ideologues to his cabinet — and Lew is exactly the type of true believer Democrats  pretend are just pragmatic go-getters.  If you have any doubt, remember that Lew once said that budgets are a tapestry: “When it’s woven together, the picture amounts to our hopes and dreams of a nation.”

It’s not this quixotic — poetic, even! — statism that makes Lew unfit for a job as Treasury Secretary. Nor is it that he’s resistant to any genuine reform on entitlements or debt spending, or even that he’s mastered the art of bogus budget cuts. All that only means he’s a perfect fit for the Obama administration. It’s his political hackery and dishonesty that make him a terrible choice.

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And according to the top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.),  “Jack Lew must never be Secretary of Treasury.” Other Republicans have made some noise about the nomination, as well. Lew, though, is not likely to meet the same sort of resistance Chuck Hagel — the former Nebraska Republican nominated for defense secretary — will, despite deserving it.

To begin with, there are questions about his short time in the private sector. You’ll remember that the Left has argued that an out-of-control Wall Street (aided by George Bush’s once-awful, now-wonderful tax cuts) ravaged our economy. Lew had an insider’s view of the fall while working at Citigroup as chief operating officer of a $54 billion hedge fund and private equity division where he lost around five hundred million in one quarter alone in 2008  – betting against the housing market. That fact alone should probably disqualify him.

As the Examiner’s Timothy Carney points out:

Obama’s nominee for Treasury Secretary Jack Lew is a revolving-door lobbyist who worked at Citigroup in 2008, and then got a $944,518 check from the failed bank on January 15, 2009, according to his financial disclosure statement. That was just weeks after Congress passed the Wall Street bailout, funneling $45 billion in taxpayer money to the bank.

Lew claims that his work at the firm was administrative. “My position at Citi was a management position. I was not an investment adviser. My compensation was in line with other management executives at the firm and in similarly complex operations.” That’s a nice taxpayer payday for guy who shuffled around some papers.

Then there is the dishonesty.

Either Lew has no idea how a budget is passed or what debt means, or he intentionally misled the American people on numerous occasions. When asked on NBC’s “Meet the Press” in early 2012 how many days it had been since Senate Democrats passed a budget (it had been over a thousand days at that point), Lew claimed that, “One of the things about the United States Senate that I think the American people have realized is that it takes 60, not 50, votes to pass something.” Here he is:

Obama, on Thursday, claimed that Lew is “a master of policy who can work with members of both parties and forge principled compromises.” Lew, a master of policy, surely knows  that a budget resolution is not subject to a filibuster. Numerous budgets have passed in close votes with simple majorities.

So maybe it slipped his mind? Well, Lew repeated the claim later on CNN’s “State of the Union,” saying this: “But we also need to be honest. You can’t pass a budget in the Senate of the United States without 60 votes and you can’t get 60 votes without bipartisan support. So unless Republicans are willing to work with Democrats in the Senate, Harry Reid is not going to be able to get a budget passed.”

Yes, let’s be honest.

Then, on Feb. 13, 2011, Lew, as director of the Office of Management and Budget, appeared on CNN and said this: “Our budget will get us, over the next several years, to the point where we can look the American people in the eye and say we’re not adding to the debt anymore; we’re spending money that we have each year, and then we can work on bringing down our national debt.”

Here are the yearly deficits according to the Obama budget:

Year   Deficit
2010: $1.293 trillion
2011: $1.645 trillion
2012: $1.101 trillion
2013: $768 billion
2014: $645 billion
2015: $607 billion
2016: $649 billion
2017: $627 billion
2018: $619 billion
2019: $681 billion
2020: $735 billion
2021: $774 billion

Here is Lew, at a Senate hearing, claiming that Obama’s 2012 budget — one that not a single Democrat or Republican senator voted for — would not add to the debt.  When Sessions confronted him about the president’s claim that the budget would allow government to “live within our means,” Lew retorted that the Obama budget would not add to the debt.

The Congressional Budget Office, on the other hand, found that President Obama’s budget would add nearly $10 trillion to the to debt over a decade. Imaginary cuts are a Lew specialty — see this New York Times op-ed.

With three high-stakes fiscal deadlines approaching, this is the guy who will be guiding the administration.

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