We've had some unusual Cabinet secretaries in past administrations -- Earl Butz, John Mitchell and James Watt come to mind -- but never anything quite like the present bunch.
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has overseen some $5 trillion in new debt. To help pay for it, he wants the rich -- the top 1 percent already contributes more in income taxes than does the bottom 90 percent -- to pay more for what he calls "the privilege of being an American." Geithner, whose department oversees the IRS, should have taken his own advice: As a rich American one-percenter, he once failed to pay his own self-employment taxes, and improperly claimed his children's camp costs as a dependent-care deduction.
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar has pulled off the near impossible: At a time when the known gas and oil reserves of the United States on public lands have soared, he has cut back on federal leasing of them to just about 2 percent of available offshore lands and 6 percent of onshore. Meanwhile, huge new amounts of oil are now found on private lands despite, not because of, the Interior Department. When he was a U.S. senator, Salazar claimed that even $10-a-gallon gas would not change his mind about voting to increase offshore drilling. And although he controls the leases of the richest oil and gas reserves in the Western world, he just recently shrugged that no one knew whether gas would hit $9 a gallon.
Then there is the even stranger case of Energy Secretary Steven Chu, whose department helped oversee millions in bad loans to green companies like Solyndra, First Solar and Solar Trust of America -- the Teapot Dome scandals of our times. Chu once infamously quipped before assuming office that he wanted U.S. gas prices to reach European levels. Apparently Chu wanted to force less fossil-fuel burning -- although he later confessed that he does not drive a car.
Chu also once warned that the California's Central Valley agriculture might disappear due to global warming. True, it could decline, but more likely due to the Obama administration's decision to divert irrigation water in hopes of helping out the 3-inch San Francisco Delta smelt. Chu should realize that private-sector California farmers create thousands of jobs, while his own Cabinet's Solyndra-like projects have done precisely the opposite.