One-on-One With Obama’s Money Man

In an exclusive interview with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, Editor-in-Chief Derek T. Dingle reality checks the White House's plan to save our economy

You’re helping those who were considered responsible homeowners and found themselves in this situation from no fault of their own?
Exactly. Not only that, [but] you had people who were taken advantage of and we need to help them out. You have people who were completely innocent victims who were responsible [about] how they borrowed, bought a modest home, but who saw all their neighbors lose their homes. So house prices in their neighborhood fell very, very sharply. That hurt them a lot too. Again, that’s why it’s so important that we do what we can to get the economy growing again and get house prices rising again and try to reach people who really deserve to be helped stay in their homes.

The Center for American Progress recently recommended that the Obama administration develop targeted programs for communities of color. Is the administration developing such programs?
The impact [of a recession] falls much more severely on African American communities [and] urban areas. The programs that we designed are designed to go to where the needs are greatest. We have a program in the housing market which gives 18 states at the center of the crisis still a substantial amount of resources that they can use to help people who are unemployed and risk losing their home or give people greater principal reduction on their mortgages. We think that’s a good strategy. We’ve also tried to put substantially more resources into the Community Development Financing Program and into our New Market Tax Credit Program so we are directing resources where they’re needed most and where in the past we’ve seen they have huge benefits in helping communities get back on their feet more quickly.

The president always talks about looking for new ideas. Have you reached out to these communities for advice and input?
We do. One thing we’ve tried hard to do is to make sure we’re listening to anybody who comes in with an idea. The people who have the most impact on the decisions we make come not just with a problem or challenge but they say here’s the best thing you could do to help us to fix that problem. The programs we designed in the housing area, for small banks [and] for small businesses reflect that input. Part of what we try to do is direct more to the states and local communities because, in many cases, they’re going to have a better feel for what works than we can have here in Washington. We try to get the balance right.  

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