WHOSE OX IS GETTING GORED?

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.com 

on the brinkOn the Brink
By Henry M. Paulson, Jr.

Narrated by Dan Woren 

Crisis reveals human strength and weakness.  Perception is not reality, but Henry Paulson, the former Treasurer of the United States, names names and paints pictures of (mostly) men in the 2007/2008 financial crisis.

Paulson reveals himself as a Christian Scientist, a pragmatist, and enigmatically, a somewhat left-of-center, presumably Republican, liberal.  Paulson suggests a Republican lean to left-of-center when writing about his mother and wife’s reluctance for him to take the Department of the Treasury position in the Bush administration.  (Paulson’s mother strongly supported Hillary Clinton for President.)

GEORGE WALKER BUSH (43RD PRES. OF THE UNITED STATES-George Bush, after 9/11, says “You’re either with us, or against us.” and later suggests “this crusade, this war on terrorism, is going to take a while.” )

 

Interestingly, Paulson characterizes George Bush as an equally pragmatic, non-ideological decision maker.  Differences between the two are in the details; i.e. Paulson analyzes his own and other experts’ details and presents informed alternatives and recommendations while Bush discounts facts and acts on recommendations from people he trusts.

BEN BERNANKE (CHAIRMAN OF THE FEDERAL RESERVE 2006-2014)
TIMOTHY GEITHNER (U.S. SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY (2009-2013)

Paulson characterizes Ben Bernanke as a brilliant financial advisor, participant, and ally in supporting and executing complex rescue plans for a financial system nearing default.  Tim Geitner is shown as a team player that bridges the divide between political and administrative decision-making when plans are formed to rescue Fannie Mae, Freddy Mac, and AIG.

RAHM EMANUEL (FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF FOR OBAMA, 44TH MAYOR OF CHICAGO)

Rahm Emanuel is described as an effective political organization man who is able to get things done in a highly political environment.

JAMIE DIMON (CHAIRMAN OF JPMORGAN CHASE)

Jaimie Dimon is characterized as a rationale business man who is willing to take a risk for the benefit of more than his own aggrandizement.

JOHN THAIN (FORMER CEO MERRILL LYNCH, PRESENT CEO OF CIT GROUP)

John Thain seems a competent manager in crisis that makes the best of a terrible situation by moving rapidly to sell Merrill Lynch to B of A before total collapse.

SARAH PALIN (FORMER V.P. NOMINEE, FORMER GOVERNOR OF ALASKA)

Some crisis profiles shown by Paulson are less complementary.  Sarah Palin comes across as a decision maker driven by politics rather than pragmatic results.

JOHN McCAIN (FORMER PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE, CHAIR OF TEH SENATE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE, VIETNAM WAR HERO)

John McCain seems to gravitate to Palin’s perception of reality by political posturing for election results rather than pragmatic solutions for the financial crisis.

JIM BUNNING (FORMER MEMBER OF THE HOUSE, PITCHER FOR TIGERS AND PHILLIES)

Jim Bunning, the former baseball player and House of Representative’s Republican, is shown to be an ideologically driven populist.

RICHARD FULD (FORMER CEO LEHMAN BROTHERS)

Richard Fuld seems arrogantly delusional about Lehman Brothers’ assets and an ineffective manager in crises. Ken Lewis of B of A appears Machiavellian in grabbing what he thinks are the best and rejecting what he thinks are the worst financial risks in America’s near economic collapse.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA
BARNEY FRANK (DEMOCRATIC CHAIR OF THE HOUSE FINANCIAL SERVICES COMMITTEE JAN. 2077-JAN.2011)

Paulson reinforces perceptions of Barack Obama as a smart guy that grasps the big picture; ditto for Barney Frank, and Lindsey Graham but less so for Christopher Dodd.

LINDSAY GRAHAM (MEMBER OF THE HOUSE FROM S. CAROLINA)

Paulson suggests that Republican Senator Shelby can drive his point and take control when pushed to act but ideological belief seems to constrain proactive action in the financial crises.

HARRY REID (SENATOR MAJORITY LEADER)

Senator Reid is shown to be a consummate, seasoned political manager in the Senate and Nancy Pelosi an equally dynamic oldster in the House of Representatives.

JOHN BOEHNER (FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE)

In contrast, Representative Boehner is unable to lead his Republican constituency and seems awkwardly suited for either a minority or majority Speaker of the House position.

A fundamental issue is whose ox got gored, the general public, the financial industry, the political system, or capitalism; i.e. all have been injured but each staggers on.  One might argue that what happened in 2008 is like the man falling from a 100 story building saying at the 50th floor, “Well, so far so good”.

Only history will tell whether the decisions made by Bush, Paulson, Bernanke, Geitner, and Congress were correct but after listening to Paulson’s book, one appreciates these civil servants hard work in trying to do the right thing.   Today is too soon to tell but Paulson gives outsiders a fascinating glimpse of people making a difference when a nation is in crisis.

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