Paulson got whacked for his cluelessness; Geithner isn’t any better. The shiny veneer has dropped from the much-ballyhooed Obama pick, and what we see isn’t pretty. They let him slide on his tax dodge, and expect big things. In a way they got it; the ambiguity of Geithner’s plan means Congress will have a bigger hand (and far from an invisible one) in its execution and implementation.

“If it is left to Congress to shape a plan to solve the financial industry’s ills, the likelihood of a good outcome is small indeed,” writes Financial Times‘s John Gapper in his characteristically understated prose.

A few weeks back, Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer caused a ruckus by noting that vindication of the Bush Administration is already in the works, and coming from the most unlikely of places — the Obama White House. Despite the promise of change, key members of the previous administration’s domestic and foreign policy teams have been retained. If we were supposedly so lost, why are we charting much the same course? Geithner was a key player in the policy decisions that led to where we now find ourselves. Despite last week’s assurances to Congress that he would have handled TARP differently, TARP II (it is what it is, despite a new marketing attempt) doesn’t look a whole lot different. Call it Paulson’s revenge.

One line buried deep in a Wall Street Journal editorial perfectly illustrates the government’s fumbling and folly in this whole mess. Referring to the Madoff scandal, the paper reminded readers that “private market participants [Harry Markopolos] spotted the fraud, while SEC lawyers couldn’t seem to grasp it.”

For all the private sector ills, government is no better. We can, and desperately need, to do better.