Neil Barofsky Tells Jon Stewart How the Ego and Narcissism of Washington Preserve a Broken Status Quo

Hope you enjoy this chat. I did, despite its predictably depressing conclusion. Stewart and Barofsky do a good job of conveying how DC works and why that guaranteed “a thoroughly broken financial system” would stay intact.

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38 comments

  1. JGordon

    The extreme complacency that can make someone bizarrely believe that she’ll always, always be able to walk down to the super market and grab whatever food she needs for the next day or two is the same sort that can make someone believe that extreme political corruption and fiat currency dilution can have no potential for horrifying, radically life-altering consequences.

    By the way, the broken financial system will stay intact until the powers that be are no longer able to keep it intact. Then it will fall apart. Since no one in power is making any effort to pave the way for our new low-consumption life styles after our energy imports are cut off, I expect the tansition will be relatively horrifying for those who aren’t making personal preparations on their own, at least until things get straightened out again.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Life in a big city is based on that assumption (food deliveries not being interrupted for very long and stores having enough inventory in the meantime). And it has actually held up pretty well even in 9/11, major storms, etc. You are actually at more risk in remote settings (longer delivery chains, lower buffers, etc). Although people in places like small town Alaska are much more survivalist and help their neighbors a lot more.

      Social breakdown, if that’s what you think the risk is, does not happen overnight. And if you think the risk is physical cataclysm or say a Contagion-type scenario, having an extra few days of food in a fridge (which presumably will have no electricity) is not going to make a difference in outcomes. You are at risk no matter where you are. Shit happens and the universe is a lot bigger than you are.

      1. Timothy Y. Fong

        It’s interesting how some people think that being isolated in a rural area with a stock of food and ammunition is going to protect them. Because it won’t. A lone person, or nuclear family of 4, living “off the grid” with a stack of provisions is actually a target for wandering bandits.

        It is community that allows people to survive in a crisis situation– like minded friends/family/neighbors who have each others backs. Thinking about it more, that’s true in the big survival situation we call “life” just as much as it is in a natural disaster.

        1. Garrett Pace

          “A lone person, or nuclear family of 4, living “off the grid” with a stack of provisions is actually a target for wandering bandits.”

          Yeah, because they actually have stuff. And you know, off the grid or not there actually are communities, even in places like Idaho.

        2. Mel

          I repeat myself, but my favorite criticism of that kind of survivalism is B.Traven’s _Treasure of the Sierra Madre_. The book is very good, and the movie almost as much. The movie runs out of time towards the end, and has to compress events. Spoiler: in this story, the heros — the only characters left standing at the end — are villages. All the loners snuff it.

        3. VVV

          ROTFLMAO. Your ignorance on this topic is astounding. All you need to look at is Katrina for how things will go down in a big city when the SHTF. I live in a rural area, Within a 5 mile radius we known dozens of friends and family and most of them are former military. Best of luck you fool.

          1. cwaltz

            You missed her point. The people you know down the street may indeed “like” you but if the difference between survival is your family or theirs, they’re going to choose theirs if there is a truly cataclysmic event that breaks down society. It’s just common sense. Self preservation is a natural instinct and only an infinitely small number ignore it. I daresay all the people you think you can rely on are exceptions to that rule.

            Here’s to hoping you never have to be proven wrong though.

          2. Brooklin Bridge

            No @Cwaltz, you may be missing a point. I think Yves is saying that a societal break down is unlikely to come all at once and that cities will continue to get some sort of supplies for a longer time. Also, the distribution network would favor cities over more rural areas. She seems to agree with VVV that rural areas can have their own advantages. But Yves makes a good point about the distribution network that may not be intuitively obvious to a lot of “survivalists”.

            VVV is saying that even though rural, his neighbors make a community (friends) and that they tend to have survival skills (military backgrounds); exactly the advantages Yves conceded. Humans are social animals by millions of years of evolution so the notion of forming tribes and counting on each other runs very deep. It’s quite likely VVV’s “friends” would indeed depend on each other and provide each other some level of protection against the outside world at least until they exhausted their resources. Even then, it is unlikely they would turn on each other. They would probably break up first. But unless VVV’s group has stockpiled large amounts of food and supplies, they would suffer hugely from the lack and it is unlikely that their “survival” skills would see them through that as a group.

            It should be noted that the same phenomenon could and would happen in the city in situations where “communities” could form for self protection. The “insulation”, or alone-ness, of city life would be one of the first things to disappear, by harsh necessity, for those who decided – for what ever reason – to stay.

        4. sgt_doom

          It is community that allows people to survive in a crisis situation…”

          Mr. Fong’s most simple and cogent statement is so utterly obvious to anyone who has ever worked in the rescue and recovery area, and should, by this time, be more than obvious to many (and probably isn’t, of course!).

          Well spoken, sir, well spoken.

    2. nad

      “after our energy imports are cut off” is a popular misconception. We currently import only about 30% of our oil, the bulk of it from Mexico and Canada. Two countries not likely to stop for any reason, and in a societal breakdown, transportation distance means everything.

      The US mainland has virtually never imported oil from the middle east. The US military is however another story.

      1. Robert157

        The US still imports most of the crude it burns. Uses about 18 or 19 million barrels per day and produces fewer than 7 million per day.

        And Mexico might be likely to stop exporting crude to the US when it becomes an importer itself. Shouldn’t take too long now.

  2. jake chase

    Complacency is always a mistake, but predictions of doom are nearly always mistakes too. Civilization means getting the food in and the trash out. Meanwhile, selected individuals prosper and a great many suffer. There is nothing different going on now, except that a few illusions of the past thirty years have blown up in the faces of those who relied upon them.

    I wonder what Barofsky is running for?

    1. diptherio

      You seriously think either of the Corporate parties will touch him with a ten-foot pole? He keeps harping on TARP and mocking the banksters and their accomplices. There’s nothing the Devil hates more than being laughed at, so I have my doubts. If he does ever get elected to national office, he’ll just end up being the new Kucinich, which would be a waste, imo.

  3. LucyLulu

    First time I’ve heard Barofsky speak, I think. He’s quite an interesting and engaging man. Excellent interview. Jon Stewart does a better job covering the news than any of the other tv news pundits (Chris Hayes on weekend mornings is good too, though).

  4. rich

    Florida justices side with bank in foreclosure fraud case

    The banks were the winner Thursday in a highly anticipated Florida Supreme Court decision involving a Greenacres foreclosure case.

    Justices upheld a rule allowing lenders to voluntarily dismiss cases as a tactic to avoid being penalized for filing fraudulent documents.

    The ruling in Roman Pino v. the Bank of New York left foreclosure defense attorneys reeling.

    It was the first significant foreclosure case to be heard by the high court since Florida’s epic housing collapse and was unusual because justices took up the complaint after Pino had settled with his lender. At the time, a divided court said the legal question of whether a bank could still be held accountable if it voluntarily dismisses a case could affect the “mortgage foreclosure crisis throughout this state.”

    Thursday’s 44-page ruling was unamimous.

    “I would say the Supreme Court has spoken loud and clear that it doesn’t care about litigants that abuse of the court system and that fraud is OK,” said Royal Palm Beach-based foreclosure defense attorney Tom Ice. “There are no ramifications if you get caught defrauding the court, just take a voluntary dismissal and start over.”

    http://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/business/real-estate/florida-justices-side-with-bank-in-foreclosure-fra/nWJX9/

  5. Dirk77

    Goddamn right Neil and Jon. I highly recommend people do internships in DC, the higher-up the better. Just observe. It’s a fascinating psychological study. But has it ever been any different???

  6. Brooklin Bridge

    Listen to Stewart’s interview with Obama where he threw hard hitting journalistic questions chocolate kisses at Obama regarding his expansion of presidential powers. Jon Stewart is the most obsequious, establishment fawning, ass licking “king’s-jester-pundit” there ever was, humor or no.

      1. Brooklin Bridge

        It kills me to think Stewart had that death rattling old buzzard Alan Simpson on his show (see below), that wealth sucking, night of the living dead turd (I’m trying to use language Elizabeth Warren would find suitably diplomatic), without a single question more penetrating than marshmellow fluff!

    1. diptherio

      I try not to be totally black-and-white on Jon. Yes, I have been highly annoyed at his sycophantic brown-nosing of the POTUS, and his soft-balling of interviews. But he’s better than most MSM news-sources and reaches a lot of eyeballs (which he probably would not be allowed to do if he wasn’t “playing ball” a little bit), so I try to just be thankful that he’s getting people like Neal more exposure. Beggers can’t be choosers, as mother used to say…

      That said, I now go to Jimmy Dore for my humorous political commentary. Waaaay better than Jon Stewart, imho. He doesn’t pull any punches with anybody.

      1. Sluggeaux

        I suspect that Stewart subscribes to the Charles Ferguson “Hold Your Nose” theory when it comes to B.O. Americans were very close to electing a magical-underpants-wearing greenmailer/blackmailer as President. He also works for Sumner Redstone and Viacom — the Daily Show isn’t exactly Wayne’s World on some public access channel…

        What is interesting is that Barofsky had the clear impression that the Masters of the Universe appointed him with the clear vision that he was going to be bought-off. He is clearly a grounded enough human being that luxury cars, boats, and golf have no appeal. I wish that more people would reject the empty “Winner Take All” brand of conspicuous consumption which is turning our culture into a cartoon of Czarist Russia before the revolution.

      2. Brooklin Bridge

        Hat tip to Diptherio, :-), I would have sworn the Daily Show was in black and white! Did you catch the time Stewart had that little sweet heart, beloved of old and young alike, Allen Simpson on? I kept expecting that even Simpson, at some point, would have pulled his pants up and said, “Jeesh Stewart, not in public, ok?!”

        I mean Stewart didn’t even peep when Simpson bragged about the results of his cat-food commission. Even tweety-bird-tingle-pants would have called out the old buzzard on the fact that his so called commission never agreed on anything and never came out with a report. Simpson came out with one on his own; no concensus whatsoever. And Stewart gave him a free pass – natch.

        1. Martskers

          Jon Stewart is a COMEDIAN, and his show is a FAKE news program. Expecting him to be the second coming of Edward R. Murrow, Walter Cronkite and/or Eric Sevareid is a fool’s errand (as, I might add, is expecting any of the current crop of supposedly REAL journalists to emulate one of those legends).

          1. Brooklin Bridge

            So you’re saying that Stewart’s obsequiousness, his tendency to fawn on power rather than get in any serious jibes, is part of his comedy? Part of his fakeness? “I will make you shine, get across your points and obscure any others, no matter how horrific what you do and that will make my show funnier than ever!”???

            If that is indeed the criteria for being “funny” then The Daily Show tops them all hands down… Some might argue something is missing from that formula, oh yes, humor, irony, wit, relevance, but it would be hard to disagree with you on the “fakeness” part.

      3. rotter

        stewart tends to be really “tough” on people who arent sitting there with him.The farther away from jon stewart you are, the “tougher” he becomes.

        1. Brooklin Bridge

          Yup! Stewart also looks good when his guest is naturally inclined to speak truth to power such as Barofsky. Then it’s easy to ask half way decent questions (or hard to avoid them).

          But put a monster in front of him such as that sub-human, life sucking death rattle of the walking dead, Alan Simpson, and Stewart does the best imitation of a lap-dog you can find on the tube or inter-tubes.

    2. Thor's Hammer

      On the idea that Obama is a poor misguided black man who has been led astray by the intellectual superiority and/or deviousness of people like Timmy Geithner that was the subject of some discussion recently:

      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/09/john-brennan-drones-confirmation_n_2649233.html

      No, Obama is an international terrorist and war criminal who is personally responsible for expanding the Bush policy of kidnap and torture into one of extrajudicial assassination in defiance of all concepts of the rule of law and the protections guaranteed by the Constitution.

  7. Javagold

    i am going to use that line from now……I always underestimate , how right i really am…..thanks Timmah !

  8. YY

    Just in case comedy central checks the comments, since they seem to not respond to direct communication. The show is on basic cable in Australia. Unfortunately any web content is blocked for Australian access. Quite annoying.

    I believe it was in this particular show earlier there was some item abut US Postal service, which also betrayed that the staff at comedy central have not done the homework (as most other mainstream media)on the congressional effort to put post office out of business. This also in case somebody at comedy central is reading …..

  9. Bert Powers

    Thank you for posting this bipartisan explanation of what is wrong in Washington and Wall Street. I have been following this for over three years and this was the most honest interview that I’ve seen.
    Love your website, we disagree on some political issues, but are almost lockstep on financial matters. Good common ground.

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