By Simon Johnson
In Politico this morning, I question whether the president should really be seen as “centrist” or “moderate” with regard to financial reform. His staff goes to great lengths to make this claim, including both the specific quotes and general tone in the Financial Times on Tuesday (May 18, p.7).
Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner:
“I would say [the president] is fundamentally at the centre and pro-market. But he recognizes the market cannot solve all problems.”
“Sometimes the most courageous thing to do is not to take the largest and most sweeping course of action.”
But if this is the correct way to frame the president’s position, how can we explain the fact that it is moderates – not left-wing radicals – who are pushing (against the White House, among others) for stronger reform both within the administration and in Congress? I suggest another interpretation: On financial reform, the president does not hold the middle ground.