Thursday, January 29, 2009

The amazing paradox of "public" service at the highest levels...

.... is that our Democratic and Republican friends refuse to acknowledge (or act upon) the incestuous relationship between corporate and governmental America.

When they find it, they are like Louie in Casablanca, astonished to discover that gambling is occurring at Rick's Place.

Just this week, Delawareliberal's ever-passionate creative speller donviti discovered the revolving door at Bank of America, wherein--among others in a tight-knit circle of acquaintances--Charles Rosetti was added to the board. Rosetti came over from Merril Lynch, and had been Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service under the Clinton administration.

Of course, not only Delaware Liberals but pretty much all Democrats across the nation have completely ignored the fact that the Obama administration violated its own rules against lobbyists to appoint Raytheon lobbyist William Lynn as Deputy SecDef to run the Pentagon.

But maybe that's because there are so many other interesting targets to choose from in the current round of appointments that they're reserving their fire.

Like Timothy Geitner, who doesn't interest me so much for his tax problems as for his career at the Council on Foreign Relations, which is remarkable for both its influence on American foreign policy and its funding by dozens of corporate giants like AIG, Citibank, Bank of America, ExxonMobil, Ford, Haliburton, Merrill Lynch....

Like Eric Holder, whose opposition to the right to bear arms is more noticed than his time at Covington & Burlington representing Merck, the National Football League, and Chiquita....

Like Lawrence Summers, who whiled away the hours after Harvard dumped him at hedge fund giant D. E. Shaw....

This is not to say that the Obama administration is particularly chummy with corporate America as presidential administrations go--in fact, just the opposite: it's pretty much par for the course.

Folks at the cabinet and sub-cabinet level--at least those who aren't career politicians--move back and forth between public positions and government posts with great regularity, especially in years when the party controlling the White House changes. So this year the former Commissioner of the IRS sits on Bank of America's board, and that will have absolutely no impact on how he deals with the IRS and Treasury, or how they deal with BoA....

Because it's amazing what our Liberal and Conservative friends believe about the transition of America's ruling managerial elites between the public and private sectors.

The Conservatives subscribe to the old Hamiltonian/Georgian England theory that it's OK to make a fortune because of your connections with the government so long as what you're doing advances the interests of the country. Dick Cheney ... Halliburton ...

The Liberals subscribe to the belief that once having been appointed to the government, Democrats who previously held corporate office will immediately become high-minded public servants, willing to step in and crush any devious practices they may find, while minding the public treasury with zealous concern only for keeping costs down....

In other words, the Obama administration is placing into office the same breed of corporate leaders against whom their fauxliberal supporters spent the last eight years railing against.

Why? Because the American ruling class has become a seamless melding of the corporate and government elite.

Recall something I wrote two months ago:

This reality is best exemplified by the easy and regular transition of wealthy individuals between senior Corporate and senior State positions. Having achieved Corporate prominence is usually considered qualification to manage a large State organization, and vice versa. While the skill set for successfully managing large organizations are quite similar whether the organization is State or Corporate, the important outcome of this constant exchange is to blur the line between the State and private enterprise at the highest levels.

Point being: it becomes a bit tiring to keep reading the posts of our liberal Democratic friends decrying the evils of bad corporate behavior with ultra-expensive private jets and redecorated bathrooms while throwing their own party convention with $17 million in public tax money and paying for Nancy Pelosi to dart around the country in her own private, government plane.

[An aside: I rarely agreed with a single thing Tom Foley did when he was Speaker of the House in the early 1990s. I got the chance--twice--to tell him so when I ended up sitting beside him on commercial flights. He wanted to talk, and said he believed that one of the reasons for standing in line and checking his own baggage was that he didn't want to lose touch with real life.]

Prediction number eleven for the first two years of the Obama administration: within 6-8 months we will have investigative reporters telling us about how corporations have found ways to billions of dollars of stimulus pork, completely ignoring all the former corporate elites sitting in government offices handing them the money....

Want a fable to explain how this all works? Remember the outcry over Halliburton and Blackwater in Iraq? How many of you ever actually learned that it was the Clinton administration that set the precedent of outsourcing military contracts to private military companies like MPRI, Vining, and Airscan? Some day when you've got a spare couple of hours (because a lot of this material is from the very early days of the Web and more easily accessible at real dead tree government depository libraries), check out the connections of the names between senior MPRI advisors/board members with Defense and DEA posts in the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations and the overlap of these names with the boards of Halliburton and Blackwater.

Then again, you probably don't want to know.

1 comment:

Brian Miller said...

I'd go a step further. In the case of B of A, Citi, Merrill, Goldman, etc., the company IS the state.

The federal government has taken your and my savings, retirement money, and disposable income and "invested" it in these massive money-losing firms.

It's using your and my savings and assets to provide "backstops" for their trillions of dollars in bad bets, pouring our meagre resources down a massive hole.

And then, it's appointing the people who made the "brilliant" decisions to jump into CDOs, corporate debt derivatives, and other "financial WMDs" (as Buffett calls them) to run the government as a reward for their brilliance.