Occasionally I tune into Morning Joe to see what Mika is wearing as well as find out what the DC movers and shakers choose to feed the American public as news.  Mika had good news.  Her daughter was accepted at Johns Hopkins.  Congratulations!

An individual identified as Steven Rattner, an economic advisor, began talking about the budget with the obligatory chart on the tv screen.  Before I could find the remote to change to Mr. Ed, The Talking Horse on the nostalgic channel, I heard him (Mr. Rattner, not Mr. Ed) say the bulk of our debt problems on said displayed chart (pointer please) with that ever rising line, were due to SS and Medicare.  Then, quickly and almost in a whisper, he said “defense is also included.”  The Economic Advisor Whisperer, so to speak.

The nodding and bobbing  heads at the Morning Joe table then assumed the profoundly serious and professionally superior mien so often present at such tables.  See, for instance, any Sunday morning tv – you’ll recognize it.

So, let’s look at Mr. Rattner.  (Wikipedia and other sources listed in the Wikipedia article.)  Mr. Rattner is a principal of The Quadrangle Group, a private equity firm that specializes in media and communications industry.  Prior to that, he was an investment banker at Lehman Brothers, Morgan Stanley and Lazard Freres & Co.  Currently, he advises Michael Bloomberg’s personal and fiduciary trusts.  Okay then.  Roger Altman recruited him when he was a writer on energy and urban affairs at The New York Times.  While at the New York Times, Mr. Rattner developed an interest in economic policies and in the Democratic Party, especially Bill Clinton.

Investigation by the SEC. The investigation concerned the hiring by Quadrangle of Hank Morris as a “Placement Agent.”  Mr. Morris at the time was the chief adviser to Alan Hevasi, New York State’s Comptroller and manager of the New York State Common Retirement Fund.  Mr. Morris was hired to help Quadrangle raise money on its second buyout fund.  Mr. Rattner offered to pay Morris 1.1% for sums over $25 million received, per the SEC.  Mr. Rattner personally paid a fine of $6.2 million in November 2010 – without admitting guilt – and Quadrangle paid a fine of $7 million. 

Public Service.  In 2009 when Chrysler and GM were insolvent, Mr. Rattner was named by President Obama as counselor and lead adviser in the auto bailout.  He and a team developed the manufacturers’, related suppliers’, and financing companies’ controlled bankruptcies and rescue of $82 million.  (That’s taxpayer money, right?)

According to Wiki and articles cited by financial papers, there was a considerable loss of jobs.  Neil Barofsky:

It is clear that tens of thousands of dealership jobs were put in jeopardy as a result of the terminations by GM and Chrysler.  Treasurer should have taken special care – given that the auto industry terminations had the potential to contribute to job losses.    

That above quote is what I call “nicespeak” but the reader can access Neil Barofsky et al. Report “Factors Affecting Decisions of Chrysler and GM to reduce their dealership networks (July 2010).  See p. 28 of Report.

Father Pfleger used to say at the Iraq antiwar rallies:  Don’t these people ever look out their windows?

Look, I know I’m not the smartest member on economics here at Firedog and at Yves’ blog (where it really gets esoteric) — but I’m learning plenty, and let’s face it – in order to survive we need to educate ourselves.  So this guy is teaching the Morning Joe audience the basics of the country’s debt and budget.  Here’s what I do know.  I know a snake oil salesman when I see one.  Here’s what else I know:  I’m better off watching Mr. Ed.