Hoisted from Comments (thought not here)

UPDATE: D-Squared chimes in, saying in less than 100 words what took me a couple of thousand (though with no quotes):

After the “first hundred days” in the term of a new Democratic President comes the next stage; the almost impreceptible transition among his supporters from saying

“of course, he’s been hampered by all sorts of obstacles to date, but he’s about to start delivering on all those promises he made to his supporters on the left”

to saying

“well, he never really promised anything and it’s terribly naive to think he was ever going to deliver anything to his supporters on the left”

Apparently we’ve reached it.

That’s why he gets the big bucks, folks.

Brad DeLong attempts to attack Matt Taibbi’s facts. Tao Jonesing replies in comments (DeLong starts; Jonesing in bold) :

  1. The financial reform bill that just passed the House is not nearly as strong a bill as the Treasury wanted. The reason is not that Obama and Geithner did not push for a stronger bill, but rather that the members of congress balked at a stronger bill. What financial did Obama and Geithner “push for,” exactly? And don’t point us to speeches. What did they push for, i.e., actually apply the pressure of the bully pulpit? Unless there’s some way to establish that they brought pressure to bear, I think this fact is an opinion.
  2. Citigroup did not receive a $306 billion bailout as the first major act of Obama’s presidency. First, where does the $306 billion number come from? The number I associate with Citigroup is $45 billion of TARP money. Certainly Citigroup would be bust and gone if not for government aid extended to it during George W. Bush’s presidency–aid that Obama endorsed–but it now looks as though Citigroup will pay everything back: that the government will profit from the aid it extended to Citigroup.Clearly, Taibbi is including the backstop in his number, which you realize in 8.*
  3. James P. Rubin is not James S. Rubin.
  4. The James Rubin whom Mike Froman brought in to staff the economic policy search was not Bob Rubin’s son. 3-4. Taibbi admits this error.**
  5. The Obama economic policy inner circle–Tim Geithner, Gene Sperling, Larry Summers, Christie Romer, Peter Orszag–is not “a group of Wall Street bankers.” It is only 5% Wall Street banker–only 1/4 of Larry Summers can possibly count as a Wall Street banker.You misread what Taibbi said, which was that two people in Obama’s economic policy inner circle–Goolsbee and Kornbluh– were replaced with a group of Wall Stret bankers. Taibbi did not say that the all of the inner circle were Wall Street bankers. So, your fifth “fact” is actually a strawman. Perhaps you are focused on the subtitle? I can’t lay the subtitle at his feet because editorial staff make that decision. Note from Ken: Brad is incredibly generous in the case of Geithner, whose dinner plans while at the NY Fed were consistently at the homes of Wall Street bankers, and Summers, whose work since attempting to destroy Harvard’s endowment has been with Goldman, D. E. Shaw, and other paragons of Wall Street. Summers may have worked for years without being on Wall Street, but it has been his primary source of income since his divorce.
  6. Mike Froman staffed the economic policy search. Mike Froman–a very smart and capable man–did not lead the economic policy search. He was not some corrupt Svengali who foisted advisors who would whisper evil in the innocent Obama’s ear. Obama led the economic policy search. Come now, Obama led the search? Really? What did that leadership entail, delegating the day-to-day responsibilities to somebody else? Froman, maybe? Since you seem to know, what did Froman actually do? And Taibbi never said or implied Froman was a corrupt evil Svengali. His point was that Froman was a Citi insider. Overall, this fact seems more like opinion.
  7. Austan Goolsbee’s absence from the transition staff was not notable. Austan Goolsbee does have a senior subcabinet appointment. And Austan Goolsbee is not a voice on the economic left–this is the man who told the Canadians not to take Barack Obama’s claims that he wanted to renegotiate NAFTA seriously. I don’t know the story of Karen Kornbluh.Your opinion of Goolsbee’s departure is an opinion, not a fact. I don’t know whose opinion is correct, although I’d bet on yours.
  8. Ah. Taibbi says: “the government also agrees to charge taxpayers for up to $277 billion in losses on troubled Citi assets.” First of all, $277 + $45 = $322, not $306. But a guarantee is not money at risk and money at risk is not money lost. As I said, it looks like the government is going to make money off of its support of Citi. (Albeit not off its support of AIG.) Clearly, Taibbi is including the backstop in his number, which you realize in 8. Note from Ken: This is, by the way, bullshit, since it’s actually another example of the Rubinesque “contracts are only valid if they favor Wall Street firms.” What is being counted as “profits” are deeply-discounted equity options that have value because of the mass amount of subsidization and drug money that has gone into the banking system without in the least being passed on to the consumer who is footing the bill.
  9. Tim Geithner was not hired as Treasury Secretary by Mike Froman. Tim Geithner was hired as Treasury Secretary by Barack Obama. You are correct that Obama hired Geithner. Nobody else could have, at least in the end. But who proposed Geithner? And what weight did Obama give the opinion of the people who proposed him? Did Obama just rubber stamp the recommendation after meeting Geithner? Who else was on the list? While there’s no doubt that Taibbi was making a lot of assumptions about Froman’s role and level of influence to jump to the obviously false conclusion that Froman hired Geithner, the fact that the conclusion was obviously false does not detract from ugly optics that Taibbi was attempting to magnify.
  10. According to CBO, the ARRA so far is not worth 640,000 extra jobs as of September 2009 but rather 1.1 million plus or minus 500,000–and that number will grow.You got your number from the CBO, but Taibbi says he got his number from the White House. There is a website managed by an executive branch agency that proclaims the 640,329 job number used by Taibbi.

So that scores as 5 (or 6, since I’m inclined to count [2] in the Taibbi column) to 3 (3, 4, and arguably 7) against DeLong, with (8) called a draw (I would give it to Taibbi—the guarantee covers $306B in “assets” without cherry-picking, so potential buyers are seeing “support”-level offers for the entire $306B. But there is a specific issue in using the $306B number, and Dr. DeLong correctly notes that the actual backstopping was greater than Taibbi reports. Whether this makes his interpretation here preferable is left as an exercise.)

Hint for the future: if you’re going to claim you’ve got fifty corrections, lead with your ten best.

*From the comments later, Our Own Rusty lays out the details:

Wall Street Journal 11/24/2008…Under the plan, Citigroup and the government have identified a pool of about $306 billion in troubled assets. Citigroup will absorb the first $29 billion in losses in that portfolio. After that, three government agencies — the Treasury Department, the Federal Reserve and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. — will take on any additional losses, though Citigroup could have to share a small portion of additional losses…In addition, the Treasury Department also will inject $20 billion of fresh capital into Citigroup. That comes on top of the $25 billion infusion.

So it didn’t happen during Obama’s presidency, but it did happen post-election, and during the time that the Obama Administration was—by its own declarations—actively holding discussions with the parties.

Tags: , , , , , , Comments (12) | |