Thursday, December 1, 2011

Confidence Men

"But once Obama was elected, and was staring into the maw of staggeringly large financial crisis, he made a fateful decision: He left most of his progressive economic advisers behind -- including such liberal luminaries as Robert Reich and Joseph Stiglitz -- and chose to go with name brand Clinton officials instead. Summers became his chief economic adviser, Geithner became his Treasury secretary, and fellow Rubin protégé Peter Orszag became his budget director.

Rather than give this team clear marching orders, Obama asked them what he should do, according to Suskind's account. Not surprisingly, they were loath to suggest anything that would harm Wall Street, or, as they put it, spook the market.

Former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker -- a relative progressive when compared to the advisers Obama chose to heed -- told Suskind what his advice to Obama had been: "Well, right now, when you have your chance, and their breasts are bared, you need to put a spear through the heart of all these guys on Wall Street that for years have been mostly debt merchants."

I am an Obama guy. I voted for him, and continue to believe, in spite of many disappointments, that he is vastly superior to anyone the GOP is considering for office. Those GOP candidates, in concert with the lockstep political Right machine, I believe, are capable of inflicting untold damage on our nation. To me, they are less people with passion to serve the nation and it's citizenry than they are a case study of the range of narcissistic personality disorders. Obama, for all his faults, is a giant compared to the best of that bunch.

Still. A new book focuses on the aspect of Obama's presidency that confounds and frustrates me more than any other. That is the dissonance between his populist rhetoric before the election when discussing Wall Street, and his actual post election initiatives. The book points out that Obama had a group of advisors he leaned on for advice before the election, but when he took office and got the data that showed what peril the economy was, he chose for his economic team a bunch of Wall Street insiders associated with the Clinton administration.

Obama took a safe choice, fearing the unknown, and managed to put people in positions of influence who chose the status quo over more progressive approaches.

The giant Wall Street firms are not the "marketplace" and should not be treated as such. They simply leverage the mythology of the best qualities of the free marketplace to provide cover for their cons.

Read more:     Confidence Men       Dan Froomkin