What Does the Secretary of the Treasury Do?

To most Americans, cabinet positions land somewhere on a scale between pageant winner and shadow government conspirator. After all, the path to attaining one of these elite, unelected spots can appear more like dirty backdoor negotiations than the noble aspirations conjured up by the founding fathers. And though these positions may be filled by the common practice quid pro quo of US politics, the truth is, these offices contain a significant amount of power. For example, did you know that the US Secretary of the Treasury is fifth in line for the presidency?

Video Transcript

He Advises the President.
As a member of the Cabinet, the Secretary advises POTUS on financial policy in areas like trade, taxation, borrowing and lending.This is important practice because if the President, Vice President, Speaker of the House, President of the Senate, and Secretary of State all spontaneously combusted, you'd be looking at the new Commander in Chief.

He Balances One of the World's Largest Checkbooks.
The Secretary is responsible for keeping all accounts in good standing with the largest holders of U.S. debt - China (holding 1.17 trillion) and Japan (holding 1.10 trillion). The Treasury pays for its debt by issuing fancy, interest-earning I.O.Us like securities and - every grandparent's favorite gift - savings bonds.

He Makes Money. Literally.
The U.S. Mint does the printing, but the Treasury Secretary is the one who decides when and how much to print. Last year, $974 million in new greenbacks were printed, 95% of which replaced worn-out, overly folded bills heading into retirement.

He Enforces the Law Like a Boss.
In addition to your standard tax evaders, the Treasury also gets to go after counterfeiters and forgers with a squad of elite crime fighters—the Secret Service. And hey, if you're ever in the market for a gently used G-5, the Treasury holds auctions of government-seized property throughout the year.

He Kicks Other Countries Where It Counts - the Pocketbook.
What do Cuba, North Korea, Zimbabwe, Lebanon, and Belarus all have in common? They—and 11 other nations—are currently under economic sanctions by the U.S. Department of the Treasury!

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