Monday, December 20, 2010

Orszag Cashes In

Obama said he was going to change the way Washington works. Like more bipartisanship. OK, so he has tried to get along with Republicans who publicly admit they intend to obstruct everything they can. It's like trying to pet a rabid dog and constantly having your hand bit. Republicans have gnawed Obama's hand down to the wrist, but he keeps sticking it out there.

But other things in the current White House are far too familiar. The President loaded up his administration with neoliberals--the heart of the financial establishment--people whose interests, efforts, and expertise are devoted to Wall Street. These guys have Obama's ear just like they had Bush's and Clinton's. And those that moved on after serving in government almost always went to, or back to, Wall Street, where they invariably enriched themselves.

So it not really a surprise that White Houe Budget Director Peter Orszag has departed and is now at Citigroup as Vice Chairman of Global Banking. He had brief stints as a Distinguished Fellow at the Council of Foreign Relations and as a contributing columnist for the New York Times. Those positions were just a prelude, a decent interval, to the position at Citigroup, one for which he had been auditioning since day one at OMB.

Hey, he earned it. He may have headed OMB, but on occasion looked more like a Citigroup lobbyist, working to ensure that Citigroup received taxpayers largesse. In return, Orszag now has a plum job reportedly worth several million per year. Not bad for a few months of government work.

James Fallows wants to know why there is so little backlash on this. Conflict of interest anyone? Featherbedding? He knows, of course, and so do the rest of us. Society now accepts this kind of corrupt "descent from heaven," as the Japanese call it. American scolds will still shake their head and wag their fingers when they see it in China, or with some tin-pot dictator in Africa, but shrug their shoulders when it happens at home.

America has become irretrievably corrupt.

No comments:

Post a Comment