Monday, September 7, 2009

Hank Paulson

During the 2008 portion of the financial crisis, I really came to appreciate the Hank Paulson story. He's an old-fashioned captain of industry who would've fit perfectly in the Republican elite before they went Fox News crazy. I wouldn't want him writing labor law or setting capital gains taxes, but he accepts that humans are causing global warming and has donated over $100 million to the Nature Conservancy.

This guy becomes Treasury Secretary, the financial crisis hits, and he has to save the world. Who's going to work constructively with him to keep the credit markets from freezing over, causing tens of millions of people to not get paid because their paycheck is financially downstream from someone who can't get a loan? Not his own Republican Party. It's a gay man from Massachusetts and a liberal woman from San Francisco. So he works with them and discovers that they're actually reasonable people, whereas the House Republicans are totally insane.

So I was interested in reading the Todd Purdum Vanity Fair piece on Paulson. Unfortunately, it wasn't especially rich in juicy details about the most exciting parts of the story -- the parts where Paulson has to get the bailout through Congress. But you get occasional interesting bits like wise old Barney Frank explaining to him how the world works:
There was such outrage among the public at the idea of a bailout for Wall Street—with calls running 60 to 1 against—that on September 29 the House Republicans succeeded in initially defeating the bill. Paulson and administration officials were shocked, though Barney Frank read the situation correctly, as Paulson recalled: “He said, ‘Well, sometimes, you know, kids have got to run away from home and be hungry before they come back.’ ” Four days later, the runaways came home, and a barely revised version of the program passed.
He's got a book coming out soon, and maybe there'll be some good stuff in there.
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