I say that not because I’ve been a fan of the Treasury Secretary’s job performance so far (far from it), but because positions like Treasury Secretary, Securities and Exchange Commission Chair, and President of the United States should be well compensated.
In the case of finance-related positions, anyone who was previously working high up in the industry or even in a Fed bank must take a huge pay cut to take on a job that brings power and prestige but also frustration and blame. Cases in point: Geithner and new SEC Chair Mary Schapiro. Now, neither is going to have any trouble paying the bills: Geithner made more than $400,000 last year at the New York Fed and received a similarly sized severance package; Schapiro made almost $3 million as head of the Financial Industry Regulatory Agency (the securities dealers’ self-regulatory board) and got a severance package of over $7 million; but still.
Geithner’s salary at Treasury: $196,700.
Schapiro’s salary at the SEC: $162,900.
After adjusting for the much higher cost of living in Washington, DC than in Oswego, NY, the head of the SEC barely makes more than I do. (Not that I think I’m overpaid. . . )