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Why Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is Like a Bad American Idol Contestant
August 8, 2011, Matthew Cochrane


Though I have not watched the show for several seasons, my wife and I watched American Idol regularly for several years. By far, the most entertaining part of the show was the first half of each season, when the original American Idol judges would travel the country holding mass auditions looking for America’s next superstar singing sensation. This was so entertaining not because of the many good singers they found, but because of the spectacularly mediocre singers who believed, despite all evidence to the contrary, that they were good singers.

The producers quickly realized such performances were comedy gold. Brimming with self-confidence, these contestants would step up to the stage and proceed to murder both the song and your ear drums. Somehow they were always surprised when the judges did not like their performance. Thousands of such souls were crushed by the judges’ unanimous, and oftentimes harsh, criticism of their performance.  
Different contestants acted differently after being rejected. Some would graciously accept defeat, mumble their thanks for the opportunity, and quietly leave the stage. Others were unable to contain their emotions and openly wept while still on the air. Others got angry. These were my favorites. These are the ones who refused to accept reality even as it slapped them across the face. Still convinced they were the next great singing superstar, they would lash out at the judges for not recognizing great talent, even when it was right under their collective noses. Here is one such instance with a contestant named "Rhonetta":
While highly entertaining, even if it’s a little lowbrow, you wish someone would take this contestant aside and tell her, “Shut up! It’s not the judges, it’s you! Don’t blame the judges for your shortcomings.”  
I had a similar reaction after reading about Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner’s response to S&P’s downgrading of American credit from AAA to AA+:
The credit rating agency Standard & Poor's showed "terrible judgment" in lowering the U.S. government's credit rating, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said Sunday.
"They've handled themselves very poorly. And they've shown a stunning lack of knowledge about the basic U.S. fiscal budget math," Geithner said in his first public comments about the credit rating decision.
Interviewed on CNBC, Geither said that U.S. Treasury securities were just as safe now as they were before S&P announced its downgrade. He predicted that China and investors would remain strong purchasers of U.S. government debt.
While China and other foreign holders of U.S. debt were panicking, demanding the U.S. change its borrowing ways, Geithner seemed blissfully ignorant of America’s humongous debt problem. Like Rhonetta on American Idol, he sees the problem as lying with the judges, even as everybody else confirmed his singing performance sucked. Like with Rhonetta, you wish somebody would take poor Timmy aside and tell him, “It’s the debt, stupid. Not S&P.”
Indeed, except for Obama’s administration and congressional Democrats, it seems obvious to all that America’s unsustainable debt is dragging America’s economy to the gates of hell. S&P’s sovereign credit ratings head David Beers confirmed the obvious when he maintained it wasn’t the debt ceiling deal, politics or any other such triviality that led to the ratings downgrade, but America’s debt (emphasis mine, HT: Hot Air):
He also said the downgrade announced on Friday was not due to the budget positions of any political party and that on any future agreement, "We think credibility would mean any agreement would command support from both political parties."
Beers called the U.S. Treasury Department's criticism of the credit rating agency's analysis a "complete misrepresentation." Even with the debt limit agreement passed by Congress, he said, "the underlying debt burden of the U.S. is rising and will continue to rise over the next decade."
So, as Geithner huffs and puffs about the unfairness of the judges, America continues to head towards an economic doomsday of our own making. Mark Steyn writes:
The fecklessness of Washington is an existential threat not only to the solvency of the republic but to the entire global order. If Ireland goes under, it’s lights out on Galway Bay. When America goes under, it drags the rest of the developed world down with it ... We’ve got until mid-decade to turn this thing around.
Otherwise, by 2020 just the interest payments on the debt will be larger than the U.S. military budget. That’s not paying down the debt, but merely staying current on the servicing — like when you get your MasterCard statement and you can’t afford to pay off any of what you borrowed but you can just about cover the monthly interest charge. Except in this case the interest charge for U.S. taxpayers will be greater than the military budgets of China, Britain, France, Russia, Japan, Germany, Saudi Arabia, India, Italy, South Korea, Brazil, Canada, Australia, Spain, Turkey, and Israel combined.
When interest payments consume about 20 percent of federal revenues, that means a fifth of your taxes are entirely wasted. Pious celebrities often simper that they’d be willing to pay more in taxes for better government services. But a fifth of what you pay won’t be going to government services at all, unless by “government services” you mean the People’s Liberation Army of China, which will be entirely funded by U.S. taxpayers by about 2015.
It’s not the judges. It’s not S&P. It’s the debt, stupid.


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