If there's one issue you won't hear about regularly on this blog, it's finance. Sorry, but dollars and cents confuse me. Still, even I couldn't help but be a little transfixed by the bailout mess that recently occurred. Specifically, I was amazed (and appalled) at the amount of power that was concentrated in the hands of Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. With so much control over the economy and the banking system, Paulson has almost certainly become one of the most powerful men in America. This is interesting from a news perspective, but it is also interesting from a structural perspective in the U.S. Government. At the start of the Bush Administration, it was well established that there were the "Big Three" posts in the cabinet (Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, Attorney General). With the establishment of the Homeland Security Department, it became the "Big Four", and in just the last few months, the rise of Paulson has elevated the Treasury Secretary into the "Big Five"...at least in my opinion.
Still, as the incoming Obama Administration took shape, I think that a good deal of the focus was still placed on the appointees to the traditional "Big Three" jobs (Hillary Clinton, Robert Gates, and Eric Holder). On the other hand, we've heard surprisingly little from the man who could be the most important figure in the whole cabinet - New York Federal Reserve Bank President (and Treasury Secretary-designate) Timothy Geithner. He seems unquestionably qualified for the job, having served as an undersecretary in the Clinton Administration and led the most prominent branch of the Federal Reserve, but we don't know much about him other than that he is about to become one of the most powerful men in the Free World.
Timothy Giethner makes this list not because we know what he will or won't do to shake up the U.S. economy, but simply because he will have so much power that it will be impossible for him to not make news on a consistent basis. Furthermore, with Obama throwing his support behind an auto industry bailout (and maybe more future bailouts), it is almost certain the Geithner will quickly surpass Henry Paulson as the most powerful Treasury Secretary in history. At least for the time being, Timothy Geithner is, without a doubt, the world's most powerful "Money Man".
Stay tuned tomorrow, as we shift gears (and continents) to meet the quintessential "Strongman". And for those of you keeping score at home, there will be one change to the list I provided at the beginning of this week. With all due respect to Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the German politician who was to be deemed "The Challenger", events within the last week have bumped him off the list to make way for another figure whose name will remain a surprise.