Why Treasury?

My brain wandered down a side street this morning while trying to shake off the shock induced by the sheer gall of the Geithner bailout plan, and it occurred to me that the half-hearted attempt to add Republican Sen. Judd Gregg to the Obama administration was revealing in a couple of ways.

First, it’s pretty clear that by stripping the Department of Commerce of responsibility for the census, Sen. Gregg would have been little more than a showpiece, a symbol of President Obama’s willingness to reach across the aisle without actually entrusting any policy to a member of the “opposition” party.

But then I realized that presidents Obama and Bush have both delegated the lead on the economy to Treasury and not Commerce. Why?

Isn’t “the economy” the collective buying and selling of goods and services — you know, commerce? Isn’t the Treasury, at least in theory, mainly responsible for collecting and disbursing money for the United States government? So why has responsibility for saving the economy been given to the banker instead of the businessman?

Simple answer, which means it’s probably the correct one: it tells us who really runs the show in Washington, D.C.

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