FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

The Wall Street White House

Robert Hormats, Vice Chairman of Goldman Sachs, is to be installed as Under Secretary of Economics, Business, and  Agricultural Affairs. This  comes as one more, probably unnecessary reminder of the total control exercised by Wall Street  over the Obama administration’s economic and financial policy.  True, Hormats is “a talker rather than a decider” according to one former White House official, but he will find plenty of old friends used to making decisions, almost all of  them uniformly disastrous for the U.S. and global economy.

Among the familiar Wall Street faces that Hormats will encounter in his new post will that of Deputy Secretary of State Jacob Lew, lately Chief Financial Officer of Citigroup Alternative Investments Group which lost $509 million in the first quarter of 2008 alone.  On visits to the White House he is sure to bump into Michael Froman, who also tore a swath through the Citi balance sheet at the alternative investments shop (they specialized in “esoteric” investments such as private highways) but is now Obama’s Deputy National Security Adviser for International Economic Affairs.  If Froman is otherwise engaged, Hormats can interface with Froman’s deputy, David Lipton, who was until recently running Citi’s global country risk management effort.

Citigroup is also well represented at Treasury, in the form of Lewis Alexander, formerly the bank’s chief economist and now Counselor to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.  Given the role played by all of the above in bankrupting us all, Alexander’s 2007 verdict on the onset of the mortgage crash, “I think that’s not going to spill more broadly into the economy and so I think we’re going to have a normal kind of housing cycle though the middle of this year,” can only have been a recommendation in the eyes of his current employer.

Alexander’s function at Citi may have been merely to endorse the financial depredations of colleagues with economic blather, rather than exercise loss-making functions personally.  Not so Deputy Treasury Secretary Neal Wolin, who has moved over to the number two job at the department from the Hartford Insurance Company, where he served as president and chief operating officer of the Property and Casualty Group.  Hartford was one of the insurance companies that got suckered by the banks into backing their ruinous investments in real estate and other esoterica, but Wolin’s Treasury has just handed Hartford $3.4 billion of our money in the form of TARP funds.

Hormats’ agricultural responsibilities will of necessity bring him into frequent contact with the Chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, Gary Gensler –  a former Goldman partner.   As Assistant Secretary of Treasury in the Clinton Adminsitration Gensler played a key role in greasing the skids for the notorious Commodity Futures Modernization Act of  2000, which set the stage for the great credit default swaps scam that underpinned the recent bubble and subsequent collapse.  News of the appointment did generate threats of obstruction in the Senate – any one of  the senators could have blocked the appointment had they really wished to do so – but such threats proved predictably hollow.  Had they been otherwise, Treasury Chief of Staff Mark Patterson could of course have lent the expertise he gained as Goldman’s lobbyist to overcome the obstacle.

For sheer gall it would be hard to equal the appointment of  Gensler, one of the engineers of this catastrophe, but the administration has managed it with the selection of Linda Robertson, formerly a key Enron lobbyist and intimately involved in pushing through the commodity futures act as chief flack  for the Federal Reserve.  Prior to joining the crooked energy-trading firm, Robertson was an important figure in the Clinton Treasury Department, latterly serving her friend Larry Summers and before him Robert Rubin during their terms as Treasury Secretaries.

Such connection to the key enablers of our bankrupt casino helps explain many of the other hires listed above.  Michael Froman was Chief of Staff to Robert Rubin at Treasury before following Rubin to his reward at Citigroup.  Most significantly, it was Froman who first introduced Rubin to his Harvard classmate Barack Obama.  David Lipton also served in the Rubin Treasury, as deputy under secretary for international affairs.  Neal Wolin, on the other hand, appears to have more an acolyte of Summers, who cherished him as Treasury General Counsel from ’99 to ’01.  Summers and Robertson were similarly close, and certainly he raised no objection to her fatal submissions on behalf of her paymasters at Enron.

Recent reports suggest that financial industry lobbying in Washington, at $104.7 million for the first three months of 2009, is 8% down on last year.  But that is to be expected – why should Wall Street continue paying  top dollar for a wholly owned subsidiary?

ANDREW COCKBURN writes about national security and related matters. His most recent book is  Rumsfeld: His Rise, Fall and Catastrophic Legacy. He is the co-producer of American Casino, the feature documentary on the ongoing financial collapse. He can be reached at amcockburn@gmail.com.
 

 

More articles by:

Andrew Cockburn is the Washington editor of Harper’s Magazine.  An Irishman, he has covered national security topics in this country for many years.  In addition to publishing numerous books, he co-produced the 1997 feature film The Peacemaker and the 2009 documentary on the financial crisis American Casino.  His latest book is Kill Chain: The Rise of the High-Tech Assassins (Henry Holt).

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
Weekend Edition
August 16, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Uncle Sam was Born Lethal
Jennifer Matsui
La Danse Mossad: Robert Maxwell and Jeffrey Epstein
Rob Urie
Neoliberalism and Environmental Calamity
Stuart A. Newman
The Biotech-Industrial Complex Gets Ready to Define What is Human
Nick Alexandrov
Prevention Through Deterrence: The Strategy Shared by the El Paso Shooter and the U.S. Border Patrol
Jeffrey St. Clair
The First Dambuster: a Coyote Tale
Eric Draitser
“Bernie is Trump” (and other Corporate Media Bullsh*t)
Nick Pemberton
Is White Supremacism a Mental Illness?
Jim Kavanagh
Dead Man’s Hand: The Impeachment Gambit
Andrew Levine
Have They No Decency?
David Yearsley
Kind of Blue at 60
Ramzy Baroud
Manifestos of Hate: What White Terrorists Have in Common
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The War on Nature
Martha Rosenberg
Catch and Hang Live Chickens for Slaughter: $11 an Hour Possible!
Yoav Litvin
Israel Fears a Visit by Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib
Neve Gordon
It’s No Wonder the Military likes Violent Video Games, They Can Help Train Civilians to Become Warriors
Susan Miller
That Debacle at the Border is Genocide
Ralph Nader
With the Boeing 737 MAX Grounded, Top Boeing Bosses Must Testify Before Congress Now
Victor Grossman
Warnings, Ancient and Modern
Meena Miriam Yust - Arshad Khan
The Microplastic Threat
Kavitha Muralidharan
‘Today We Seek Those Fish in Discovery Channel’
Louis Proyect
The Vanity Cinema of Quentin Tarantino
Bob Scofield
Tit For Tat: Baltimore Takes Another Hit, This Time From Uruguay
Nozomi Hayase
The Prosecution of Julian Assange Affects Us All
Ron Jacobs
People’s Music for the Soul
John Feffer
Is America Crazy?
Jonathan Power
Russia and China are Growing Closer Again
John W. Whitehead
Who Inflicts the Most Gun Violence in America? The U.S. Government and Its Police Forces
Justin Vest
ICE: You’re Not Welcome in the South
Jill Richardson
Race is a Social Construct, But It Still Matters
Dean Baker
The NYT Gets the Story on Automation and Inequality Completely Wrong
Nino Pagliccia
Venezuela Retains Political Control After New US Coercive Measures
Gary Leupp
MSNBC and the Next Election: Racism is the Issue (and Don’t Talk about Socialism)
R. G. Davis
Paul Krassner: Investigative Satirist
Negin Owliaei
Red State Rip Off: Cutting Worker Pay by $1.5 Billion
Christopher Brauchli
The Side of Trump We Rarely See
Curtis Johnson
The Unbroken Line: From Slavery to the El Paso Shooting
Jesse Jackson
End Endless War and Bring Peace to Korea
Adolf Alzuphar
Diary: What About a New City Center?
Tracey L. Rogers
Candidates Need a Moral Vision
Nicky Reid
I Was a Red Flag Kid
John Kendall Hawkins
The Sixties Victory Lap in an Empty Arena
Stephen Cooper
Tony Chin’s Unstoppable, Historic Career in Music
Charles R. Larson
Review: Bruno Latour’s Down to Earth: Politics in the New Climatic Regime
Elizabeth Keyes
Haiku Fighting
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail