Former FDIC chair Sheila Bair minces no words when she talks about President Obama’s economic team in her new book about the financial crisis, “Bull by the Horns: Fighting to Save Main Street from Wall Street and Wall Street from Itself”
As she takes you through the tense work of saving the U.S. economy from ruin, Treasury Secretary Geithner especially, comes out looking like an out-of-touch Wall Street focused bureaucrat who has little to no concern for the millions of Americans losing their homes and livelihoods.
Other members of the team, like Larry Summers, get a more gentle treatment, but it’s definitely not flattering. From the book:
In retrospect, it was apparent that Larry and Tim were determined to keep me out of the design and operation of any of the programs from the very beginning. As I learned years later, Larry had dismissed our program to the president in December 2008, even though he had led me on in the discussions well into February… Larry and Tim didn’t seem to care about the political beating the president took on the hundreds of billions of dollars thrown at the big-banks bailouts and AIG bonuses, but when it came to home owners, it was a very different story. I don’t think helping homeowners was ever a priority for them.
Brutal right? Bair’s scathing opinion of these Obama appointees begs one obvious question: What does she think about their boss? She doesn’t talk about him a lot, but here’s what she has to say about a discussion she had with him about foreclosures on Air Force One:
We must have talked for a good 20 to 30 minutes. He wanted to hear about our work on loan modifications and on my prognosis on the health of the banking system and the overall economy. We talked about credit availability and small business. He was certainly focused on all of the right issues, and I was impressed with his sincerity, the depth of knowledge reflected in his questions, and his obvious desire to learn about what was going on in the banking sector and housing market from the front line vantage point of the FDIC. It was such a contrast from the conversations with his senior economic team where the attitude was that they already had all the answers and were talking to us only because the president wanted them to.
It’s quite a contrast, and this is coming from a lifelong Republican and holdover from the Bush administration who voted for John McCain in 2008.
Bair goes on to say that of all the people in the president’s administration, HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan was most interested in saving homeowners.
But worse than contrasting with Obama, Bair says that Summers and Geithner worked with Republicans against the president to ensure that banks didn’t have to pay for bailout funds.
The disconnect is striking.
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