Marketplace Report: A New Treasury Secretary

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President Bush has nominated Goldman Sachs CEO Henry Paulson to lead the Department of the Treasury to replace John Snow, who resigned Tuesday. Alex Chadwick talks to Janet Babin of Marketplace about Paulson and what he brings to the job.


Back now with DAY TO DAY. He's going, he's going, he's actually gone. John Snow made it official, he's resigning his post as secretary of the U.S. Treasury. President Bush has nominated a Wall Street figure, Henry Paulson, to replace him. MARKETPLACE'S Janet Babin is here with more on the would-be new guy in the cabinet. Janet, who is Henry Paulson?

JANET BABIN reporting:

Well, he is 60-years-old and he's the CEO and Chairman of what is arguably the most successful and profitable bank on Wall Street - Goldman Sachs. So most of the banking community has tremendous respect for this man and his 30-plus years of experience. He also has international stature and respect. He's been to China like 70 times and that could send a strong message abroad that's something the Bush administration is looking for.

CHADWICK: He also has a reputation as an environmentalist.

BABIN: That's true. He's somewhat, he's known as a birdwatcher and he's Chairman of the Nature Conservancy. And at Goldman Sach's annual meeting recently, Paulson had to defend himself and the firm for taking some favorable positions on environmental matters. Some had questioned whether his actions were appropriate or whether he was putting his beliefs before his duty to the company's profits.

Now, I spoke with Jeff Cutler about this. He's editor of Securities Industry News, that's a weekly that covers Wall Street and capital markets. And Cutler saw Paulson defend himself at that annual meeting and says he was really impressed with his performance.

Mr. JEFF CUTLER (Editor, Securities Industry News): His response to those questions was really quite forceful and I think impressive, and shows that he can play the game. You don't get to be the top executive of Goldman Sachs without knowing how to play the political game and being able to stake your ground and articulate points of view. And I think that's what he'll do in a treasury secretary position.

BABIN: So while Paulson isn't known for his charismatic speaking abilities, Cutler thinks that might just be a product of the culture of Goldman Sachs where the team, not the individual person, is what's supposed to stand out.

CHADWICK: And what is it, exactly, he's supposed to do as treasury secretary?

BABIN: Yeah, the job is, you know, not obviously as powerful as, say, the Federal Reserve chairman, who's going to set interest rates; but the treasury secretary is the advocate of the fiscal policy of the country. So he's going to be the economic spokesman, really the go-to guy for economic issues like publicly answering questions about gross domestic product or whether unemployment is a problem right now. He'll also have to take on questions about the current weakness of the dollar versus European and Asian currencies, so he'll have a lot on his plate if he's confirmed. But he does have to be confirmed by the Senate.

Coming up later today on MARKETPLACE, we're going to find out why workdays are getting longer and longer for movie crews.

CHADWICK: Well, we're a hard working group out here in California. Janet Babin, thank you. Janet of Public Radio's daily business show, MARKETPLACE, produced by American Public Media.

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