The White House urged Tim Geithner to stay in his post, and apparently they got their wish. But it seems calculated based as much on fitness for the job as on the inability to get a replacement nominee through Congress:

Speculation from Washington to Wall Street has intensified because Mr. Geithner, the only holdover at the center of Mr. Obama’s original economic circle, said a month ago that he would decide on his future after the White House and Congress reached a deal to increase the nation’s debt ceiling. Mr. Obama signed that deal into law on Tuesday.

Mr. Obama and his chief of staff, William M. Daley, have been urging Mr. Geithner to stay, administration officials say, not only for continuity when the economy has weakened and to avoid an all-but-certain confirmation fight in the Senate over a successor, but also because Mr. Obama has developed a close rapport with Mr. Geithner.

The broken appointment process could be ended in one second with the perfectly Constitutional maneuver of adjourning Congress. So that this is a consideration is all is pretty miserable. But “rapport” and, more important, a symbiosis on policy grounds is probably more like it.

Still, you can see why Geithner is desperate to leave, and it has nothing to do with where his kid wants to go to school (since when do kids make that decision, anyway?). Just look at the stock market today. The next year could prove to be the unraveling of Geithner’s entire theory about the economy. I’m not certain of a double dip recession, but the possibility certainly exists, and even if it doesn’t materialize, growth has definitely slowed. And Geithner doesn’t want to be sullied by that.

What’s more, the inherent imbalances in the economy are starting to show. Incomes fell dramatically in 2009 and wage inequality is nearing a record high. The two biggest sectors, finance and health, have created an outsized political economy where their power and influence rules all. Geithner certainly hasn’t pushed back on this, and in fact he has managed completely within these lines. And the everyday worker has suffered.

Now that the problem is growing, and people are wondering just what kind of economic stewardship we have, it would be a perfect moment for Geithner to jump ship and leave to wreckage to someone else. But he’s not being set free. If there’s a Satan sandwich on the menu, apparently everyone in the Administration will have to take a bite.

David Dayen

David Dayen