I do not care to spend much time on this subject, because there is simply no point, but wanted to at least touch on it. Look, they could be nominating gerbils to these positions and hold these pretend “tough” question and answer sessions; the direction of this country and the intent of Congress is now baked into the cake, as they say.
Bernie Sanders’ view of Jack Lew, Obama’s nominee for Treasury Secretary (this is the opinion I agree with):
[…] In my view, we need a treasury secretary who is prepared to stand up to corporate America and their powerful lobbyists and fight for policies that protect the working families in our country. I do not believe Mr. Lew is that person.
We don’t need a treasury secretary who thinks that Wall Street deregulation was not responsible for the financial crisis. We need a treasury secretary who will work hard to break up too-big-to-fail financial institutions so that Wall Street cannot cause another massive financial crisis.
We don’t need another treasury secretary who believes in ‘deficit neutral’ corporate tax reform. We need a treasury secretary willing to fight to make sure that large, profitable corporations pay their fair share in taxes to reduce the deficit and create jobs.
We don’t need a treasury secretary who will advise the president that he should negotiate with the Republicans to cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid benefits. We need someone who is going to strengthen these programs.
We don’t need another treasury secretary who believes that NAFTA and Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China have been good for the American economy. We need someone in the White House who works to fundamentally re-write our trade policy to make sure that we are exporting American goods, not American jobs.
Here’s part of the “grilling” Lew received from the Senate:
[…] The questioning was largely respectful and free of drama. Even the top Republican on the committee, Orrin Hatch, one of Lew’s most persistent critics, had only nice things to say at the end of the 3-1/2-hour vetting.
“Frankly, I think you’ve done really well,” he told Lew. […]
Hatch said he was unclear about what Lew did as chief operating officer at two Citigroup units, one of which engaged in proprietary trading. As treasury chief, Lew would oversee rules that seek to prevent such trading.
“If you were to be confirmed, it could lead to an awkward situation in which … you would effectively be saying to financial firms: Do as I say, not as I did,” Hatch told Lew.
Lew said there were no conflicts of interest. While at Citigroup, he said he was mainly in charge of managing an operating budget and was not involved in investment decisions.
Lew was also grilled about a $56,000 investment he once had in a Citigroup venture capital fund registered in the Cayman Islands. Republican Senator Pat Roberts briefly displayed a blown-up picture of Ugland House, a Cayman Island office building where thousands of companies registered, including the fund in which Lew invested.[…]
Lew told the panel he did not initially know his investment was registered in the Cayman Islands. He said he did not receive any tax benefit from the investment, as he sold it at a loss.
According to wikipedia, while at Citi, part of Lew’s job description was: “also had oversight of Citigroup subsidiaries in countries including Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, and Hong Kong; and during his time at Citigroup, Citigroup subsidiaries in the Cayman Islands increased to 113.” Now, in light of his above answers, that there is a right interesting part of his curriculum vitae.
Getting back to the Senate Q & A, this from a different article:
At last we know how the grease is funneled to that revolving door between Wall Street and Washington. One only gets a $940,000 bonus from Wall Street’s Citigroup if you can land a “full time high level position with the United States Government or a regulatory body.” It can’t be just a part-time job, mind you; and you can’t be rank and file. Citigroup’s dangling carrot will only pay $940,000 if the company can add a “high level” government mover and shaker to their gold-plated Rolodex.
This was the bombshell dropped by Senator Orrin Hatch yesterday in Jack Lew’s confirmation hearing for one of the highest offices in the land – Secretary of the U.S. Treasury who will also head the body that makes critical decisions impacting Citigroup – the Financial Stability Oversight Council. (Lew held an executive position with Citigroup at the time of its collapse.)
Hatch made the disclosure as follows:
“First, could you explain what you did in 2008 for Citi that warranted payment to you of close to $1 million, most of which was a bonus. Second, what was it about your performance that merited your bonus from a company that was being propped up by taxpayer money and are there any records of your performance assessment – or are there any assessments of your performance. Third, your employment agreement included a clause stating that ‘your guaranteed incentive and retention award’ would not be paid upon exit from Citigroup but there was an exception that you would receive that compensation ‘as a result of your acceptance of a full time high level position with the United States Government or a regulatory body.’ Now is this exception consistent with President Obama’s efforts to ‘close the revolving door’ that carries special interest influence in and out of the government?” […]
Of course, Senator Hatch is completely misguided if he believes that Obama has made any effort whatsoever to “close the revolving door”; Obama has permanently propped that door wide open and the wind is whistling mightily through the halls. Hatch seems unaware – or perhaps just wants to appear unaware – that by placing this clause in Lew’s package, Citigroup was actually signaling its anticipation of a Lew governmental position. Now, how would they know to word it this way? The question I have, in light of the Citigroup clause, is: “How long in advance was Citi made aware that Lew was headed back to a governmental position and who struck this deal with them?” Also, it seems to me that the blame for the “revolving door” lies not with Lew, who merely made himself oozingly available in his greasy banker way (perhaps knowing in advance that some deal had been struck), but with whomever in the government was actually behind the peculiar structure of Lew’s package. Surely Citi did not write that clause without impetus and a strong belief that this was the direction Lew’s career path would take and to influence his future career. And to benefit from that. How can this clause even be legal? He is being paid by Citi to take a position in the government where he can influence policy and regulations directly benefiting Citi. Compensated handsomely by a private company to take that influential government position. (Who exactly is his employer in this case?)
What’s the payoff for Treasury Secretary? An extra zero or even a comma, in an offshore account managed in a blind trust that he “doesn’t really know much about”? The man has proven he takes money to influence policy.
The Senate Q and A session did not end right there as it obviously should have, with Lew being leg-cuffed and frog-marched out of there and his nomination process stopped cold. He was not disqualified immediately? He was paid a million dollars, by contract, to take the most influential position in government that he could. Unbelievable. This is open corruption, in my view; perhaps I am totally naive and this is now common practice in the world of US government and business. I have not seen this particular clause mentioned in any mainstream papers – I would have expected this to be headline news; not that there is corruption, but that there is corruption by written contract and Congress doesn’t raise a ruckus.
I would have thought that between the compensation clause flim-flam and the misdirection Lew gave in his answers about his Cayman Island investments and duties while at Citi, the guy’s nomination would have been completely derailed. But then, I thought for sure Timmeh had hoist himself on his own petard when it came out he cheated on his taxes. (HA HA HA HA HA HA HA, oh, me, how young and foolish I was back then.)
Well, I suppose there is always the possibility that a bright star arose over the crib of Jack Lew and shone all around it, and the magis of Wall Street in the North, recognizing the portent as prophecy fulfilled, left their homes in the New York City, mounted their camels and traveled laden with many gifts – including a New Clause to the Compensation Package of Jack Lew written on finest parchment – to the City Upon the Hill to share the Good News with The One there ensconced. The One received them warmly and, loathe to impede prophecy Most Divine, studied the testaments of the magi and took Jack Lew verily unto his bosom.
But I doubt it.
As my Dad is wont to remark, “Ye saw I was a stranger and ye took me in.”
The position of Treasury Secretary is perhaps the most important position in the US right now, the most holy, so to speak. Whoever sits in that seat is all that stands between Bernanke and his infinite monetary gifts, giving 80 billion dollars a month to the five largest banks (roughly 10 bb/month to Citi alone). A strong Treasury Secretary could oppose this practice and stand against this clear and unbelievably large criminal financial fraud. A complicit Secretary, such as Geithner and Hank Paulson before him, and now Lew, ensures the government is just greasing the skids for the private corporation called the Federal Reserve and that the shadow banking system finally reaches a worth of over a quadrillion dollars. That is a Thousand Trillion. $1,000,000,000,000,000. The estimated size of the securities derivatives market is over one quadrillion dollars.
Now tell me about that sequestration thingie again.
[Edited after initial publication.]
UPDATE, Thurs. 28 Feb.
Jack Lew has been confirmed as the next Treasury Secretary. His nomination “sailed through” with a Senate vote of 71 – 26, only one day after the Finance Committee approved him.
I particularly like the juxtaposition of the final two sentences of the below linked article, which may or may not have been intentional on the part of the editors. A bit of sadistic humor, which we Americans thrive on, kind of like the clips on “America’s Funniest Home Videos” – half of which show boys being hit in the groin with various objects and then writhing in pain (ha, ha, what a hoot) and the other half showing doting American parents grinding birthday cakes into the faces of their beloved toddlers (isn’t that a riot? Happy birthday, ya little fucker). In this case, we are collectively the butt of the cruel joke, but still we will enjoy it, if we even notice that it has been played on us. We are just stupid that way.
[…] The huge payout he received when he left the bank to join the Obama administration, a bonus reportedly stipulated by his contract, sparked questions that he is too close to the banks and would be too accepting of the practices that stoked the financial crisis.
Lew is expected to be sworn in on Thursday morning.