WASHINGTON — The brightly illuminated room looks like mission control for a space flight. Seven people, wearing headphones, stare intently at computer screens. Three minutes before the deadline, a disembodied voice exclaims, “We have coverage.” This is no shuttle launch. It is an auction of United States Treasury securities, and $32 billion has just been sold in a blink. It was another successful operation for Van Zeck, the commissioner of the public debt, who has the world’s biggest credit card.
Mr. Zeck has worked for the federal government for 38 of his 60 years. He is a very busy man these days because the government is floating on a sea of red ink, as it borrows more and more money to stimulate the economy, bail out banks, shore up auto companies, aid struggling homeowners and fight foreign wars.
In a city full of pompous politicians and bombastic bureaucrats, Mr. Zeck quietly runs one of the government’s truly indispensable operations. He is not a policy maker. He does not decide how much to borrow. He just makes sure the money is borrowed, in a regular and predictable way, at the lowest possible cost to the government over time.
“We are the back office, the plumbing,” Mr. Zeck said. “We are borrowing a ton of money. (Continues at NYTimes)