WASHINGTON -- The likelihood that Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner may resign from his post later this summer is the latest sign that President Obama's team of economic advisers is disintegrating as the economy grows weaker.
With the nation's 9.1 percent unemployment rate worse than it was when Obama took office in 2009, and the economy slowing down to less than 2 percent growth, Geithner's signal that he wants out further diminishes whatever confidence the country still has in Obama's economic policies -- and polls show that isn't much.
The former president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York is the chief architect of Obama's economic strategy, which is now under fierce attack from Republican presidential contenders and grumbling from Democrats on Capitol Hill who fear their party will suffer deeper losses if the economy doesn't recover this year or early in 2012.
Geithner is the last big-name adviser in Obama's original economic team. One by one, the rest have left in the past year, some of them with parting shots that the economy needs a much stronger stimulus than it got in 2009 if it is to get back on its feet before Election Day.
Gone are Larry Summers, who headed the National Economic Council (NEC); Christina Romer, who chaired the President's Council of Economic Advisers; and longtime Obama adviser Austan Goolsbee, who briefly took her place, only to return recently to the University of Chicago.
Should Geithner leave, as senior officials have intimated he will, that will leave a thin, faceless team of advisers at a time when the economy demands a team of heavy hitters who can command the respect of the business community and Wall Street, and recalibrate Obama's policies for the 2012 campaign.
Gene Sperling, who rose to become Treasury counselor under President Clinton, has moved into the NEC's directorship, but he is not a trained economist and knows less about creating jobs.
Geithner has indicated that he will remain onboard at least until he has wrapped up negotiations with Congress to raise the debt limit and cut spending over the next 10 years.
Few in the party's liberal base will shed tears if he leaves. He was one of the chief architects of the Bush administration's Wall Street bailout in 2008. He fought to protect big bonuses for financial traders. His prescriptions to deal with the tsunami of mortgage foreclosures and pull the housing industry out of its slump have been ineffective at best.