So, I realize that everyone wants to maybe feel more secure about what's going to happen with the billions of dollars that the Federal government is going to feed the ailing economy over the next few months to save it, but this ridiculous piece by David Cho in the Washington Post on Henry Paulson is the journalistic equivalent of Aldous Huxley's Soma.
On a matter upon which too much scrutiny can never be applied, Cho treats the reader to a hallucinogenic depiction of Paulson as lonely, reluctant, public-servant hero who took on the tough job that no one else wanted. He's "bold" and "brazen" and he's pushed limits and broken rules and he's...uhm, tall? (Cho notes his "6-foot-1 frame" as if that was a particularly intimidating height.) He's decisive and reluctant and -- good Lord, this sentence:
He said regretfully that the financial upheaval has forced him to be a modern Robert Moses, the controversial 20th-century urban planner who acquired minor government posts and stretched their authority to reshape New York City as he saw fit. Though Moses never held elected office, he remade the landscape of New York through the cunning exercise of power.
Somewhere between Paulson "curtly" intoning, "Trust me, I'll get it done," and his heroic acknowledgment that the "downside" to all the power he's been granted was that "It would be him -- not the White House -- who would be blamed if the emergency response to the crisis went awry," if your brain hasn't turned to fuzz, you might ask yourself, "Wait? Aren't we talking about the guy who was basically wrong about everything, all the time, always and forever?"
Yes we are! Let's recall some highlights, courtesy of the good people at 1115.org, who have crawled into the dark heart of Paulson's incompetence like a pissed-off spelunker with nothing left to lose:
"All the signs I look at" show "the housing market is at or near the bottom." The U.S. economy is "very healthy" and "robust." (4/20/07)
"I do believe that the worst is likely to be behind us." (5/7/08)
Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson moved swiftly Thursday to defend Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from critics who have called them insolvent. "Their regulator has made clear that they are adequately capitalized." (7/10/08)
"I believe we can get to the point within months where we turn the corner on housing." (7/22/08)
That's right! Henry Paulson said all of these wildly dumbassed things almost at the precise moment when someone with a degree of good sense should have been saying almost anything else! Or, as Dean Baker of The American Prospect puts it:
Yes, it was a really severe financial crisis, but it was also an entirely predictable financial crisis. A competent Treasury Secretary would not have been caught by surprise by this crisis. In fact, a competent Treasury Secretary would have been attacking the housing bubble and the over-leveraged financial system that laid the basis for this crisis from the day that he/she took office.
Instead, Secretary Paulson insisted that everything was just fine, refusing to consider that there were any serious problems in the housing market. Even when things began to unravel in 2007, he still insisted that everything was fine, minimizing the severity of the crisis at every point. Of course it is probably worth mentioning that Mr. Paulson personally made hundreds of millions of dollars at Goldman Sachs from the practices that further inflated the bubble.
In short, we have one of the chief arsonists telling us about his heroic efforts to combat the huge fire he faced.
With all that in mind, it's rather preposterous for anyone to be penning a piece on the financial crisis from the standpoint of wondering how the Treasury Secretary is going to weather the crisis. What's the worst that can possibly happen to Paulson? Let's go back to the Cho article:
Treasury secretary is "fundamentally a lonely job," said a former senior Treasury official who advises Paulson. "It's very hard for anybody to know what goes into these kinds of judgments, and I'm sure he's dramatically changed by that. He has to live with all that second-guessing all the time."
Oh, to be burdened with all the second-guessing!