Empty Halls at Treasury

Another would-be Geithner deputy withdraws, but the stock market shows signs of life.

The Change-o-Meter is now a widget. You can add it to your blog, Web site, or profile with just a few clicks. (Shortcut for Facebook here.)Each time we publish a new column, the widget will automatically update to reflect the latest score.

President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden remind states to spend their stimulus allowances wisely or have them revoked. The Treasury Department still has a lot of empty corner offices, but at least the Dow is up—even though Obama’s stock is down among blue-chip economists. Obama scores a 10 on the Change-o-Meter.

The president dropped by a daylong personal finances 101 class for states—except Idaho, which didn’t show up—on how to responsibly spend their share of the $787 billion stimulus largesse. Biden, who’s heading up the oversight effort, delivered a parental warning to state officials about how to use the funds responsibly and stimulatingly. The ‘Meter awards 20 points for this first step in oversight.

Wall Street rallied for a third day, for which the ‘Meter feels obligated to award Obama 15 points, given that it tends to dock him when the news is bad. But Obama and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner got an F and an F-, respectively, from a survey of 49 economists polled about their opinions of the administration’s economic policies. (Obama received a 59 out of 100 while Geithner got a 51.) It’s probably safe to assume those marks will not rise on news that yet another candidate for a top Treasury post has withdrawn from the running, making three this week. Obama loses 20 points for the combined blows to his economic credibility.

As we noted yesterday, Obama tacked a signing statement onto the earmark-laden spending bill he signed to fund the federal government for the fiscal year that began last October. Further inspection of his statement finds it particularly Bushian. Using the same separation-of-powers arguments that defined George W. Bush’s attitude toward congressional oversight, Obama warned that he may withhold some allocated funds that interfere with his commander-in-chief authority. The ‘Meter recalls from 11th-grade U.S. history class that withholding appropriated funds didn’t work out so well for Nixon. At the risk of taking Congress’ side on a mangled budgetary process, the ‘Meter docks 5 points for the unfortunate historical allusions.

There’s a lot to cover, so we want to hear your thoughts on what the Change-o-Meter should be taking into account. No detail is too small or wonky. E-mail may be quoted by name unless the writer stipulates otherwise.