Geithner’s wisdom abounds on media grand tour

May 15, 2014, 8:17 PM UTC

FORTUNE — Former Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has been making the rounds promoting his new book “Stress Test: Reflections on Financial Crises”, sitting down for interviews with news outfits as big as Fox to as new as Vox. Here are some of his more insightful comments.

On trying to stop the housing crash, via Time:

“We had some of the best housing people in the country. We had the right incentives — the president putting enormous pressure on us. And we looked at every idea, but the scale of this problem was just massive in comparison to the tools we had, the resources we had. I feel like we used those tools as effective as we could, the authority we had. It just was small relative to the size of the problem.”

On facing public criticism for bailing out the banks on USA Today:

“If you look at what we faced, it was a classic financial panic. Something that Americans hadn’t seen since the Great Depression. There’s no memory, no understanding of that. To protect people from the risk of mass unemployment, you have to make sure you keep the financial system running, stable to protect their savings, to make sure people can borrow, businesses can stay open. What that means to do that, you have to do things that look deeply unfair, look like you’re rewarding the arsonists: the people that were central to helping cause the crisis.”

On the scale of the financial crisis in conversation with Jim Cramer of CNBC:

“Anybody who was smart in finance at that point was scared to death, if you weren’t scared to death at that point you had no idea what was going on … Think about what it took in the end: It took us backstopping, or guaranteeing, or supporting about $30 trillion in financial assets, and risks with a massive fiscal stimulus bill larger than what Roosevelt did in the Great Depression, and an enormously creative, powerful use of the central bank’s balance sheet. It took a massive effort.”

On the future of the “too big to fail” policy on Fox News:

“People should always be concerned about this risk; that these firms still think they’re too big to fail, or the government in the future is going to come protect people from their mistakes. We’re much closer to creating a system where we can be indifferent to the mistakes individual firms make. We made sure if the tax payer ever again has to put money at stake to protect the average person from a financial panic then the financial system will bear the costs of that support.”

On the Dodd-Frank regulation via Vox:

“The most important thing done in those reforms was the set of changes to the regime of capital. They are dramatically more conservative today, and they are applied more broadly. Now, over time, like water flows around stones in a river, risk will migrate around that. It’s the forever war. You’ve got to keep at it. Keep looking at ways that you can make sure you can protect against that risk.”