Last week the Wall Street Journal columnist Evan Newmark called Hank Paulson a “national hero.” We noted that it’s a bit early for that kind of thing and predicted that “history may yet render a more negative judgment.”
Matt Taibbi is a bit more direct, calling Newmark “a craven, bumlicking arse-goblin” in his latest post on TrueSlant. He points out that Newmark didn’t disclose that he once worked for Goldman Sachs, which Paulson ran before being tapped to head up the Treasury Department. And that’s just for starters.
Here’s a brief excerpt (but you really should read the whole thing):
Exactly what part of Paulson’s record is heroic, Evan? The part where he called up SEC director William Donaldson in 2004 and quietly arranged to get the state to drop capital requirements for the country’s top five investment banks? You remember that business, right, Evan? Your hero Paulson met with Donaldson and got the rules changed so that Goldman and four other banks no longer had to abide by the old restrictions that forced banks to actually have a dollar or two on hand for every 10 or so they lent out. After that, it was party time! Bear Stearns in just a few years had a debt-to-equity ration of 33-1! Lehman’s went to 32-1. By an amazing coincidence, both of these companies exploded just a few years after that meeting, and all of the rest of us, Evan, ended up footing the bill, thanks to a state-sponsored rescue of Bear and a much larger massive bailout of Wall Street in general, necessitated in large part by the damage caused by the chaos surrounding Lehman’s collapse.
Meanwhile your own Goldman, Sachs ended up with a 22:1 debt-to-equity ratio a few years following that meeting, a number that would have been much higher if one didn’t count the hedges Goldman bought through a company called AIG. Thanks in large part to Paulson’s leadership in his last years as head of Goldman, the company was so massively over-leveraged that it would have gone under if AIG — which owed Goldman billions when it went into its death spiral last September — had been allowed to collapse. But thanks to Hank Paulson, who heroically stepped in and gave AIG $80 billion the same weekend he allowed one of Goldman’s last key competitors, Lehman, to collapse, Goldman didn’t have to go without that money; $13 billion of the AIG bailout went straight to Goldman. So I guess we have Paulson to thank for the fact that he used about $13 billion of our taxpayer money to essentially bail out his own fuckups. I mean, that’s heroism if I’ve ever seen it. Audie Murphy has nothing on that. Sit your asses back down, Harriet Tubman, Thomas More, Gandhi and Jesus Christ. Hank Paulson is in the house!
…If anyone besides Paulson had been running Goldman Sachs earlier in this decade — if a person with a serious brain injury had been in his place, for instance, or a horse, or a head of lettuce — we’d all be better off today, because there wouldn’t be so many toxic Goldman-underwritten mortgage-backed CDOs on the market. We, all of us, are paying the freight for arseholes like Paulson, and like you, for that matter. And while we’re getting over it, slowly, you’re really not helping when you open your mouth and pat yourself on the back for all the good deeds you’ve done. Spare, us, OK? Just give it up.