Despite sounding like William Jennings Bryan briefly in Ohio, Williams Jennings Obama backs Ben Bernanke. Even the Wall St. Journal saw through William Jennings Obama’s ruse in Ohio; in a recent, story the WSJ published they see Obama’s words as just a campaign rhetoric designed to tap into the populist sentiments of the nation. Aside from one very misguided diarist here at FDL, few people are buying into Obama’s overnight conversion to populism for the following reasons:
1. Despite attacking "fat cat bankers" in a 60 Minutes interview in December, Obama’s administration almost simultaneously was working to weaken financial regulatory legislation. Robert Kuttner pointed this out in a superb interview with Bill Moyers on Bill Moyer’s Journal of December 18th:
ROBERT KUTTNER: I was appalled. I was just appalled because think of the timing. On Thursday and Friday of last week, the same week when the president finally gives this tough talk on "60 Minutes," a very feeble bill is working its way through the House of Representatives and crucial decisions are being made. And where is the President? I mean, there was an amendment to put some teeth back in the provision on credit default swaps and other kinds of derivatives. And that went down by a handful of votes. And to the extent that the Treasury and the White House was working that bill, at all, they were working the wrong side. There was a there was a provision to exempt foreign exchange derivatives from the teeth in the bill. That–
MATT TAIBBI: Foreign exchange derivatives are what caused the Long Term Capital Management crisis–
ROBERT KUTTNER: Sure.
MATT TAIBBI: A tremendous problem.
BILL MOYERS: Ten or 12 years ago, right?
MATT TAIBBI: Right.
ROBERT KUTTNER: Yeah. And, Treasury was lobbying in favor of that. There was a provision in the bill to exempt small corporations, not so small, I believe at $75 million and under, from a lot of the provisions of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act requiring honest accounting. Rahm Emanuel personally was lobbying in favor of that.
BILL MOYERS: So you had the Treasury and the White House chief of staff arguing on behalf of the banking industry?
ROBERT KUTTNER: Right. Right. And so here’s the president two days later giving a tough speech. Why wasn’t he working the phones to toughen up that bill and, you know, walk the talk?
Obama seldom "walks the talk". With Obama, words are cheap, you have to watch what he does and often that’s 180 degrees different from what he talks about.
2. Obama has surrounded himself with "fat cat bankers". He’s selected and promoted them. Rahm Emanuel made millions as an investment banker with Wasserstein Perella (now Dresdner Kleinwort), where he worked from 1998 until 2002:
In 1999, he (Rahm) became a managing director at the firm’s Chicago office. Emanuel made $16.2 million in his two-and-a-half-year stint as a banker, according to Congressional disclosures.
Who selected Rahm as his Chief of Staff? Obama.
Who promoted W’s pick as the New York Fed head to Secretary of the Treasury? Obama selected and continues to support Timothy Geithner. Who selected as his chief economic adviser one of the chief architects of financial deregulation? Obama chose and backs Larry Summers.
Whose administration is riddled with Goldman Sachs’ bankers? Obama’s. Which institution was the leading financial supporter of Obama’s senate and presidential campaigns? Goldman Sachs. Which banking institution benefited most from bailouts under Obama? Goldman Sachs. Who does Obama refer to when he says "My friend, Bob". He’s talking about Robert Rubin, ex head of Goldman and Citigroup. Which banker chose then Senator Obama to give the opening speech at the Goldman Sachs funded Hamilton Project? Robert Rubin.
Here’s Matt Taibbi on the Robert Rubin-Goldman Sachs connection:
"[Bob] Rubin probably more than any other person was responsible for the financial crisis by deregulating the economy [while] in the White House. And he had a major role in helping destroy one of the world’s biggest companies in Citigroup. He has one of the worst track records you can find, but he was basically the guy who was the architect of the entire Obama policy. Obama put him in charge of everything."
On the very day he was elected, who brought in a Wall St. friendly team headed by former Citicorps executive Michael Froman? Obama did.
Name another billionaire banker who gave megabucks to Obama and also acts as a trustee of the Hamilton Project? Steven Rattner. Who did Obama pick for as his "Car czar" despite no experience in the automobile sector? Steven Rattner. Who resigned due to an investigation into a corporation he formed that is being investigated for skimming New York state retirement funds? Steven Rattner. Steven Rattner.
3. Who supports Ben Bernanke? Originally, George W. picked Bernanke. But after Sen. Russ Feingold and Sen. Barbara Boxer came out opposing Bernanke’s reappointment as Fed chief, who came out in support of Bernanke? First, Obama’s stalking horse, Harry Reid, next Chris Dodd and Sen. Judd Gregg (remember this is the same cretin Republican that Obama wanted as his Commerce Secretary?). Now, Obama himself and all of the King’s men:
The White House deployed its top guns this weekend to lobby on behalf of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, enlisting Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, National Economic Council Chair Larry Summers and Senior Adviser David Axelrod in a day-long full-court press of calling and contacting Senators and their staffs in an effort to make sure the re-confirmation of the Fed Chairman doesn’t fail.
The latest round of appeals by the administration follow a series of check-in calls by President Obama himself to review the status of the Bernanke re-confirmation. The President has said he is confident the vote is on schedule and will result in re-confirmation of Bernanke.
The Bernanke reconfirmation is being pitched as a vote in favor of Obama’s economic agenda as well as a means by which to give big manufacturers, software companies and retailers a boost of confidence.
If there is a ray of light in this farce of a faux populist Obama, it is this: Obama himself clearly believes the country is far more progressive than he is since he has attempted to portray himself as having MOVED TO THE LEFT just three days following the loss in Massachusetts.
But don’t believe in the words of William Jennings Obama. Words are cheap for this faux populist. Recall Matt Taibi’stelling analysis of Obama:
What’s taken place in the year since Obama won the presidency has turned out to be one of the most dramatic political about-faces in our history. Elected in the midst of a crushing economic crisis brought on by a decade of orgiastic deregulation and unchecked greed, Obama had a clear mandate to rein in Wall Street and remake the entire structure of the American economy. What he did instead was ship even his most marginally progressive campaign advisers off to various bureaucratic Siberias, while packing the key economic positions in his White House with the very people who caused the crisis in the first place. This new team of bubble-fattened ex-bankers and laissez-faire intellectuals then proceeded to sell us all out, instituting a massive, trickle-up bailout and systematically gutting regulatory reform from the inside.
Fat cat bankers, far from being a Cross of Gold to Obama, provided him with plenty of greenbacks, and Obama has chosen to surround himself with Fat cat bankers while defending their every interest. On 3, cue in the real president of the United States: one, two, three, here’s Robert Rubin.
1. "Faux Populist President Needs to Shake Up His Administration: Fire Geithner & Summers" at FDL;
2. "Obama’s ‘Smoking Gun’: His Hamilton Project Speech Shows His Links to Goldman, Entitlement Cuts (Part 2)
3. "The Hamilton Project: Same Corporatist Whine in New DLC Vessels"
4. "Obama-Dem Party 2010 Strategy: Talk (But NOT Act)Like Populists.
5. April 23, 2009 letter from New York AG Andrew Cuomo to Sen. Dodd indicating role Bernanke played in Bank of America-Merrill merger.
Here is Wikipedia’s take on the above:
In a letter to Congress from New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo dated April 23, 2009, Bernanke was mentioned along with former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson in allegations of fraud concerning the acquisition of Merrill Lynch by Bank of America. The letter alleged that the extent of the losses at Merrill Lynch were not disclosed to Bank of America by Bernanke and Paulson. When Bank of America CEO Kenneth Lewis informed Paulson that Bank of America was exiting the merger by invoking the "Materially Adverse Change" clause Paulson immediately called Lewis to a meeting in Washington. At the meeting, which allegedly took place on December 21, 2008, Paulson told Lewis that he and the board would be replaced if they invoked the MAC clause and additionally not to reveal the extent of the losses to shareholders. Paulson stated to Cuomo’s office that he was directed by Bernanke to threaten Lewis in this manner. Congressional hearings into these allegations were conducted on June 25, 2009, with Bernanke testifying that he did not bully Ken Lewis. Under intense questioning by members of Congress, Bernanke said, "I never said anything about firing the board and the management [of Bank of America]." In further testimony, Bernanke said the Fed did nothing illegal or unethical in its efforts to convince Bank of America not to end the merger. Lewis told the panel that authorities expressed "strong views" but said he would not characterize their stance as improper.