US quick to write off loopy Lew signature
Being considered for the job of treasury secretary of the United States is always going to come with a degree of scrutiny.
But Jacob Lew might feel as though the nation's attention on one particular aspect of his resume has been a little extreme.
Jack Lew is expected to be named as the new US treasury secretary. Photo: AFP
With US President Barack Obama expected to name the longtime Washington insider, known as Jack Lew, as his next treasury secretary, US media are going crazy - about his signature.
The reason is that the US treasury secretary's signature appears on US currency printed during their tenure. And media have been quick to point out that Lew's is not the most distinguished of scribbles.
"The guy signs his name like a first-grader scrawling loop-the-loops," wrote David Lazarus of the LA Times.
'A Slinky that's lost its spring': Jack Lew's signature is coming under considerable scutiny.
"'OoooooooO!': Jack Lew's Insane Signature Is Going to Be All Over Your Dollar Bills, Soon," read a headline on The Atlantic's website, while New York magazine labelled it "a Slinky that has lost its spring".
"To say that Jack Lew, the soon-to-be Secretary of the Treasury, has the most bewildering signature I've ever had the privilege to see would be a complete and utter understatement," wrote Molly Greenberg of InTheCapital.com.
"His signature just doesn't fit the bill. Literally."
However, they may have nothing to worry about. John Carney of CNBC reported that Lew would be likely to change the way he signs his name if he was named as treasury secretary, something his predecessor Timothy Geithner did.
Carney quoted a Marketplace radio interview that said Geithner had to change his signature when taking over the job.
"Well, I think on the dollar bill I had to write something where people could read my name. That's the rationale," Geithner told the station.
Obama is expected to formally announce as early as Thursday morning his pick of Lew, his current chief of staff and formerly the administration's budget director and a top State Department official.
In Lew, Obama is seeking a secretary who lacks the luster of a Wall Street CEO or the gravitas of a renowned economic forecaster. But he would get a trusted confidant who has the president's ear and one with extensive experience in the federal budget, perhaps the most serious flash point now in the government, with Obama engaged in repeated battles with the Republican-controlled House of Representatives over taxes and spending.
Lew also has not drawn any of the partisan fire, so far, that instantly greeted early reports of Obama's plans to nominate United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice to be secretary of state or former Sen. Chuck Hagel to be secretary of defence. That could suggest he'd win relatively easy confirmation in the Senate, which earlier confirmed his appointment to the lower profile post of deputy secretary of state. Quick confirmation would put him in place in time for what are expected to be acrimonious months ahead.
He'd immediately step into the fray. The United States on December 31 hit its $16.4 trillion (A$15.6 trillioin) debt limit, and the Treasury Department has undertaken what are called "emergency measures" to keep paying the bills it owes to creditors. These measures, however, may run out as early as February 15, raising the potential of a partial default on some US debt, which could disrupt global financial markets.
Lew, 57, is a longtime Washington insider, working in the 1970s for legendary House Speaker Thomas "Tip" O'Neill, and is a veteran of decades of budget negotiations. He also served as deputy secretary of state for management and resources.
As a Washington insider, Lew is unusual when seen against past secretaries.
Geithner ran the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. George W. Bush had former Goldman Sachs chief Henry Paulson and high-profile CEOs in the post. President Bill Clinton's treasury secretaries included an esteemed senator, Texas Democrat Lloyd Bentsen, and then-Citibank chief Robert Rubin.
The lack of significant experience in the financial sector could make Lew a risky pick should financial markets go haywire as they did in 2007 and 2008. As treasury secretary, Lew would serve as chairman of the Financial Stability Oversight Council, created as a council of regulators during the broad revamp of financial regulation in 2010 in order to probe for threats to the U.S. financial system.
Obama's choice of a man with little experience in finance or on the world stage may simply reflect that the biggest challenges for the U.S. economy are domestic ones, said Jeffrey Schott, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.
- Fairfax Media, with MCT