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Book Reviews: Bailout, Confidence Men

Posted by Larry Doyle on April 30, 2013 7:23 AM |

If the American public is concerned about the dysfunction within Washington D.C., after reading two inside editions on the games being played within our nation’s capital, the public should be even more concerned than ever.

I recently completed two enlightening books, Confidence Men by Ron Suskind and Bailout by Neil Barofsky. I recommend both to those who want to gain a real understanding of how our nation’s capital does NOT work, that is, does NOT work for us.    

I was glad that I read Confidence Men prior to reading Bailout, as I found it helpful in terms of further understanding the trials and tribulations detailed by Neil Barofsky in his role as Special Inspector General for the TARP (aka, SIGTARP).

What is the consistent message delivered by both of these books?

In large measure, three men with very few checks and balances have run our nation over the last four plus years. Who are they? Ben Bernanke, Larry Summers, and Tim Geithner.

Suskind lays out how other members of the Obama economic team during his first administration were seemingly utilized as props, and once having recognized that reality expressed their frustration. In fact, the author leaves the very strong impression that President Obama himself played second fiddle to Summers and Geithner especially in terms of economic and fiscal policy.

Barofsky tars and feathers Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner for his lack of meaningful accountability and transparency in dispensing TARP funds not only to the banks but also AIG, the auto companies, and especially the homeowner foreclosure program known as HAMP.  I very much got the impression that Geithner was simply throwing money from a truck to plug the gaping hole in our banks’ capital positions with little regard for those who would or could game the system, especially the large banks receiving the lucre.

Barofsky writes out of frustration knowing that little has changed in Washington that might avert another crisis. Suskind undresses President Obama as being more concerned with the politics and appearances of the place than actually advancing real public policy for the nation’s benefit.

I would not necessarily think either Barofsky or Suskind remain on the invitation list for the Washington cocktail circuit, but their books are well worth reading. If Washington is truly this dysfunctional —  replete with waste, fraud, abuse, and corruption — little wonder why our economy is growing at such a sluggish rate.

Larry Doyle

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I have no business interest with any entity referenced in this commentary. The opinions expressed are my own. I am a proponent of real transparency within our markets so that investor confidence and investor protection can be achieved.

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