It's four and counting at Timothy Geithner's Treasury department. The Washington Post reports today that H. Rodgin Cohen, chairman of the New York law firm Sullivan & Cromwell, has bailed out on becoming deputy Treasury Secretary. Three others have removed themselves as well, including Annette Nazareth, Lee Sachs, and Caroline Atkinson. According to a British official, the Treasury department resembles an abandoned building -- "There is nobody there."
There are several possibilities here. Could it be that the Treasury department doesn't really need all those top officials? Is it time to start purging federal agencies, just as businesses are shedding their employees?
Or are murky vetting issues the real problem? The rot in America's financial and legal system may be so deep that it's become almost impossible to find candidates suitable for government service. New York Times columnist Tom Friedman is fretting that the ethics rules are too tight, that it's like insisting that a heart surgeon to prove he hasn't eaten a chocolate bar in the past year before he's allowed to operate on a dying patient.
The bottom line may be this: if Geithner can't even hire staff for his own department, how on earth is he going to lower America's unemployment rate?