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Saturday, July 18, 2009

Goldman Sachs Running the Fed... Is The Fox Guarding The Hen House?

Wall Street giant Goldman Sachs has a long list of graduates who have gone into government service... that is, if we can stretch the meaning of the term "government Service". The most interesting of which is the appointment of Goldman Sachs Chairman and CEO, Henry M. Paulson Jr. as the head of our Treasury Department!

But company officials have filled in heavy-hitting posts in less visible areas, too. The Goldman Sachs' alumni who have served in government include Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick; former president and chairman of the Export-Import Bank of the United States Kenneth D. Brody; chairman of the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board and former director of the National Economic Council Stepehn Friedman; Reagan Deputy Secretary of State John C. Whitehead; and Reagan Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs Robert Hormats. Goldman Sachs' alumni James Johnson served as president and CEO of quasi-government housing lender Fannie Mae.

Most of the job posts involve economics, but some have broadened their professional portfolios by serving in an array of other government policy positions. names like New Jersey Gov. Jon Cprzine, White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten and former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin. Corzine was CEO of the Goldman Sachs brokerage before he won a Senate seat in 2000. Until taking up work with the Bush-Cheney campaign in 2000, Bolten was executive director for legal and government affairs at Goldman Sachs International in London. Rubin was co-chairman of Goldman Sachs until 1992, when he was confirmed for his Cabinet seat in the Clinton administration.

"Richard Linowes, a business professor for Kogod School of Business at American University, and a former Goldman Sachs employee, said 'the job duties of Goldman employees combined with their lucrative salaries, frequently tapped for political donations, make them ripe for the pickings of government service. When people make campaign contributions, they're recognized for their support by being put into presidential appointments," Linowes said, adding, "They know how international financial markets work, and they've been part of it. They come in with finance expertise."

Georgetown University corporate law professor Donald Langevoort cautioned that those looking for a conspiracy behind the link between Goldman Sachs and government service won't likely find one.

"I don't think it necessarily makes them more powerful," Langevoort said. "I think every Wall Street firm has its way of exercising influence in Washington and around the world. Goldman no doubt benefits from its political contacts, but the other firms have their own tools."

On the other hand, it certainly doesn't make Goldman Sachs less powerful, and if the other financial firms exercising influence in Washington have one fifth of the power that GS has, "We the people" are skrood!

According to Wall Street Watch, "The financial sector invested more than $5 billion in political influence purchasing in Washington over the past decade, with as many as 3,000 lobbyists winning deregulation and other policy decisions that led directly to the current financial collapse, according to a 231-page report issued today by Essential Information and the Consumer Education Foundation. The report, "Sold Out: How Wall Street and Washington Betrayed America," shows that, from 1998-2008, Wall Street investment firms, commercial banks, hedge funds, real estate companies and insurance conglomerates made $1.725 billion in political contributions and spent another $3.4 billion on lobbyists, a financial juggernaut aimed at undercutting federal regulation."

There's no doubt about the fact that we need people with strong backgrounds in finance in government service... but is it prudent to have the majority of them coming from one powerful Wall Street firm? Is there not an above average chance for conflicts of interest with each appointment from Goldman Sachs? Such an arrangement could have easily been responsible for our current financial crisis.

Right now there is in excess of two dozen current and former Goldman Sachs employees and officers, working within our government's financial infrastructure. The "feather your nest" possibilities are endless if they should all work in concert, for a single self-serving goal. But that would never happen, would it? Let's just ignore the fact that Goldman Sachs was the first Wall Street investment firm bailed out, and that their chief rivals and competitors were the first ones to be allowed to go under. Our government is staffed with nothing but altruistic, forthright and honorable people, who put the good of the nation above individual profit. That is correct, isn't it? (If you believe it is, I have this property at the southern tip of Florida, called the Everglades, that I'd consider a reasonable offer on. I'll even throw in the George Washington Bridge!)

I could be wrong about the possibilities that I see in this arrangement. But, worse yet... I could be right.

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