Sunday, November 23, 2008

Run Government Like a Business?

And run it into the ground like the financial wizards did at Citibank:
Normally, a big bank would never allow the word of just one executive to carry so much weight. Instead, it would have its risk managers aggressively look over any shoulder and guard against trading or lending excesses.

But many Citigroup insiders say the bank’s risk managers never investigated deeply enough. Because of longstanding ties that clouded their judgment, the very people charged with overseeing deal makers eager to increase short-term earnings — and executives’ multimillion-dollar bonuses — failed to rein them in, these insiders say.

Today, Citigroup, once the nation’s largest and mightiest financial institution, has been brought to its knees by more than $65 billion in losses, write-downs for troubled assets and charges to account for future losses ....

Waves of layoffs have accompanied that slide, with about 75,000 jobs already gone or set to disappear from a work force that numbered about 375,000 a year ago ....

While much of the damage inflicted on Citigroup and the broader economy was caused by errant, high-octane trading and lax oversight, critics say, blame also reaches into the highest levels at the bank.
Oh, yeah. Those are the kinds of people we need in charge in Washington. Oh, wait they have been in control under the Bush Administration. Those are the people we need out of power.

Unfortunately, it looks like President Elect Barack Obama is relying on at least one of the Citigroup wizards as a "key economic advisor," who moves seamlessly between Wall Street and Washington and doesn't seem to think he made any mistakes at Citigroup.  Change or more of the same?

UPDATE: In terms of greatest potential benefit, Robert Reich asks a good question about Citigroup's bailworthiness:
So why save Citi and not GM? It's not at all clear. In fact, there may be more reason to do the reverse. GM has a far greater impact on jobs and communities. Add parts suppliers and their employees, and the number of middle-class and blue-collar jobs dependent on GM is many multiples that of Citi. And the potential social costs of GM's demise, or even major shrinkage, is much larger than Citi's -- including everything from unemployment insurance to lost tax revenues to families suddenly without health insurance to entire communities whose infrastructure and housing may become nearly worthless.

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