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“Failure of Epic Proportions”: Treasury Nominee Jack Lew’s Pro-Bank, Austerity, Deregulation Legacy

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Very good interview at Democracy Now! by Amy Goodman and Jack Gonzalez of Bill Black and Matt Taibbi regarding Obama’s (bad) pick of Jack Lew as Treasury Secretary. At the link is a video of the interview and also a transcript. The blurb:

Former bank regulator William Black and Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi join us to dissect the career of Jack Lew, President Obama’s pick to replace Treasury Secretary Timothy Geither. Currently Obama’s chief of staff, Lew was an executive at Citigroup from 2006 to 2008 at the time of the financial crisis. He backed financial deregulation efforts while he headed the Office of Management and Budget under President Bill Clinton. During that time, Clinton enacted two key laws to deregulate Wall Street: the Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999 and the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000. Black, a white-collar criminologist and former senior financial regulator, is the author of The Best Way to Rob a Bank Is to Own One. A contributing editor for Rolling Stone magazine, Taibbi is the author of Griftopia: A Story of Bankers, Politicians, and the Most Audacious Power Grab in American History.

The transcript begins:

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: President Obama is facing criticism for nominating another former Wall Street executive to become treasury secretary. On Thursday, Obama tapped his own chief of staff, Jack Lew, to replace Timothy Geithner. Lew was an executive at Citigroup from 2006 to 2008 at the time of the financial crisis. He served as chief operating officer of Citigroup’s Alternative Investments unit, a group that bet on the housing market to collapse.

Lew has also long pushed for the deregulation of Wall Street. From 1998 to January 2001, he headed the Office of Management and Budget under President Clinton. During that time, Clinton signed into law two key laws to deregulate Wall Street: the Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999 and the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000.

On Thursday, independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont criticized Lew’s nomination, saying, quote, “We don’t need a treasury secretary who thinks that Wall Street deregulation was not responsible for the financial crisis.”

At a press conference at the White House Thursday, President Obama praised Jack Lew’s record.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Jack has the distinction of having worked and succeeded in some of the toughest jobs in Washington and the private sector. As a congressional staffer in the 1980s, he helped negotiate the deal between President Reagan and Tip O’Neill to save Social Security. Under President Clinton, he presided over three budget surpluses in a row. So, for all the talk out there about deficit reduction, making sure our books are balanced, this is the guy who did it—three times. He helped oversee one of our nation’s finest universities and one of our largest investment banks. In my administration, he’s managed operations for the State Department and the budget for the entire executive branch. And over the past year, I’ve sought Jack’s advice on virtually every decision that I’ve made, from economic policy to foreign policy.

AMY GOODMAN: For more on the nomination of Jack Lew, as well as other news about Wall Street, we’re joined by two guest. William Black, author of The Best Way to Rob a Bank Is to Own One_, he’s associate professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, former senior financial regulator. His recent 2446848.html”>article for the Huffington Post is called “Jacob Lew: Another Brick in the Wall Street on the Potomac.”

We’re also joined by Matt Taibbi, contributing editor for Rolling Stone magazine, his latest piece, “Secrets and Lies of the Bailout,” which we’ll talk about in a bit, author of Griftopia: A Story of Bankers, Politicians, and the Most Audacious Power Grab in American History.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Professor Black, let’s start with you. Your assessment of Jack Lew?

WILLIAM BLACK: Well, on financial matters, Jack Lew has been a failure of pretty epic proportions, and he gets promoted precisely because he is willing to be a failure and is so useful to Wall Street interests. So, you’ve mentioned two of the things in terms of the most important and most destructive deregulation under President Clinton by statute. But he was also there for much of the deregulation by rule, and a strong proponent of it, and he was there for much of the cutting of staff. For example, the FDIC, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, lost three-quarters of its staff, and that huge loss began under Clinton. And the whole reinventing government, Lew was a strong supporter of that. And, for example, we were taught—instructed by Washington that we were to refer to banks as our “clients” in our role as regulators and to think of them as clients.

He goes from there to Wall Street, where he was a complete failure. You noted that part of what Citicorp did was bet that housing would fall. That was actually one of their winning bets. But they actually made a bunch of losing bets, as well. And the unit that he was heading would have not been permissible but for the deregulation of getting rid of Glass-Steagall under President Clinton. And you saw, as an example of Citicorp, why we shouldn’t be doing this. Why would we create a federal subsidy where all of us, through the U.S. government, are on the hook for Citicorp’s gambling on financial derivatives for its own account, you know, running a casino operation? That makes absolutely no public policy sense.

Then he comes into the Obama administration, and he was disastrously wrong. He tried very hard to impose austerity on the United States back in 2011, which is—he wanted, you know, the European strategy, which has pushed the eurozone back into recession, and Spain, Greece and Italy into Great Depression levels of unemployment.

And this is the guy, after all of these failures, who also is intellectually dishonest. He will not own up to his role and deregulation’s role and de-supervision’s role in producing this crisis—and not just this crisis, but the Enron-era crisis and the savings-and-loan debacle.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, Matt Taibbi, your reaction to the nomination of Jack Lew by President Obama? . . .

Continue reading. Obama continues to act as a hireling of the finance industry. Disappointing, to say the least; to say more, destructive of our country.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 January 2013 at 9:51 am

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