Sign Petition Opposing Co-Chairman of the Catfood Commission, Erskine Bowles, as Treasury Secretary

The word is that Erskine Bowles, who most recently headed the so-called “National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform” which might more accurately be called the “National Commission to Increase Unemployment and Make Old People Die Faster” is the top pick on the short list of candidates for the next Treasury Secretary.

This is a very bad idea. While Geithner never stood up to the banks because he was a protege of Robert Rubin, and therefore had been schooled that bankers really deserved to be Masters of the Universe, and if they made a few mistakes here and there that led global economy to teeter on the edge of destruction, that was no reason not to restore them to their power positions, even if it took a few trillion dollars of overt and covert handouts. But on top of that, he knew too little tradecraft to stand up to them even if he had wanted to. I’ve had a number of bankers who’ve met with Geithner describe him with contempt, despite the great impression he makes on journalists. He may give great policy talk, but his grasp of markets is apparently thin, even though he oversaw a decent sized trading operation at the New York Fed.

Bowles, despite being an investment banker, is certain to have little to no understanding of trading businesses. He was at Morgan Stanley in investment banking for what looks like all of three years in the late 1960s, when Morgan was a pure investment bank, as in it had no trading (it was a lead underwriter and syndicator + merger specialist). Bowles then built up a boutique firm in his home state. He may be a perfectly good dealmaker, but that does not even get you within hailing distance of the guts of modern finance, which is the OTC markets (yes, he is now on the board of Morgan Stanley, but trust me, board members don’t get enough into the weeds for him to be anything more than buzzword compatible).

So the short version of why not Bowles is:

1. He is one of the primary architects and boosters of the disaster about to be visited on the middle class, which Bill Black has correctly called the Great Betrayal

2. He is a Wall Street crony who if he were (miraculously) to have a “Nixon goes to China” impulse in a next crisis, lacks the right sort of expertise and acumen to stare down Wall Street CEOs

Yes, I know there are other bad dudes on Obama’s short list, so you might argue that pushing back against Bowles is merely going to get us another turkey. The reasons for petitioning are:

1. This is a low effort way to signal discontent with the Great Betrayal (and let Team Obama know the public is clued in; it is hardly normal for a Treasury Secretary candidate to attract grass roots opposition).

2. The other turkeys are arguably less terrible. For instance, even though contender Larry Fink of Blackrock might be seen as functionally indistinguishable, he was not involved personally in the Great Betrayal planning (hence he lacks personal ego investment in getting it done and could be more flexible in the face of opposition) and has much more stature on Wall Street and hence could push back against a Jamie Dimon in a crisis. Mind you, I would not hold out high odds of that, but the probability with Bowles is zero, so it’s still better on a relative basis.

Please sign the petition at Change.Org and tell your friends to join (hat tip Dean Baker)

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  1. Gene Hoglan

    Bowles won’t be the next Treasury Secretary. He doesn’t have the proper background for the job.

    1. athena1

      Oh, I’m not so sure. The smart neoliberals were kind of ok with having Sarah Palin as VP. They seem to be all about the useful idiots.

        1. athena1

          The words “I think Allan is basically a social climber” comes to mind. (Ayn Rand referring to Greenspan.)

          1. CB

            Shrewd assessment. Would that his subsequent job interviewers had had her acuity. Or maybe they did and knew how readily Allan would put himself in the service of his superiors.

    2. CB

      Define proper background. If you count conflicts of interest(s) as improper, what would be your over/under on the percentage who could stay? I’d guess 20 percent or less. And I’m just considering tops of the chains of command.

        1. rotter

          Thats a great and important piece of information. That relationship should be the primary target. Whatsis name blue-dog from Indiana was pressured not to run for his senate seat during the obama care run up because of his wifes position on the board of wellpoint. It could work against bowles as look up the senators name but im actually pleased to dicover ive already forgotten it

    3. CB

      The more important, and puzzling, issue here is why anyone still considers Obama a Democrat. Or a “left leaning” centrist. Nope and nope.

      1. athena1

        It takes a LOY of time to learn about economics, so it’s hard to figure out what’s going on here for the average voter. Also, a lot of people don’t seem to understand that libertarians are pro choice and pro immigration, too.

        1. CB

          Not the card carrying libertarians I know and know of. Ron Paul is not pro-choice, right off the bat. Libertarians make exceptions where their personal agenda cross their political philosophies. The big BUT………[fill in the blank of the issue]

          1. athena1

            Actually, I know pro life and pro choice libertarians. Objectivists would have been a better word choice. (My pet conspiracy theory is that there a are a lot of closet objectivists in Washington.)

  2. athena1

    I’ll sign it because of reason #2, but it’s kind of in spite of reason #1. I kind of wonder if the hubris of the oligarch class might be “our” greatest advantage here. Assuming the decent into neofeudalism/Neo Dark Ages isn’t just inevitable.

  3. Middle Seaman

    Anyone who believes in austerity, e.g. the Cat food gang, is not only evil but also totally blind to the disaster in Europe. Yet, Obama’s lack of understanding of modern life has brought us Geithner, a lacking health care reform and support for drill baby drill to mention a few and now may give us a Democratic Alan Simpson at treasury.

    1. diptherio

      “…Obama’s lack of understanding of modern life…”

      Well, he seems to understand modern politics just fine (i.e. serve the banks and financial elites in reality, while at the same time talking pretty to the masses about…well, it actually doesn’t matter all that much about what)

      As for modern life, I tend to think it’s more lack of caring than lack of understanding. But then, I’m a cynic.

  4. diptherio

    Let’s put Glenn Hubbard in charge of the Fed and bring Corzine in to run the Treasury. This way we can speed up the inevitable crash and burn of this civilization cycle and set about the building of a new one, post-haste.

  5. Howard Beale IV

    Too bad Warren won the MA Senate race. If Obama really wants the will of the people to be done, he’d offer her up as the Treasury Secretary. Yeah, won’t happen….

    1. Aquifer

      Personally i think they backed Warren for Senate for the same reason they wanted Hilary as Sec.State – to keep her in the fold and on a leash ….

      If she’s any good, she’ll give them conniptions – if they don’t seem genuinely perturbed, the fix is in ….

      1. Valissa

        Keep your friends close, and* your enemies closer.

        Variously attributed to: Sun Tzu, Machiavelli, Michael Coreleone (The Godfather Part II), and as a traditional Arabian Proverb

        [*other variations on this word: ‘but’, ‘hold’]

  6. Chris Rogers


    Lets be frank here, your electorate had a choice on Tuesday – they elected Obama again.

    Given sufficient information existed on the Blogosphere to suggest Obama was a complete disaster for the majority in his first term, and that he would continue to be a disaster in his second term – effectively the rape of the poor and middle-class – why does it matter who he choses as his Treasury Secretary, given he’s unfit for office himself – well unless you are part of his 1% constituency.

    With all this in mind, the people get what they deserve – you had a choice – Third Party – but elected one of two ultra neo-liberals on offer.

    So, given the above facts, we should actually support the appointment of Bowles and allow the ‘Great Betrayal’ to proceed as planned.

    Perhaps when a majority of your nation is pauperised and in need of a social safety welfare net, they may actually vote for someone who actually is in their own interests – until then, you gets what you paid for/ elected – this being a neoliberal President who disdains the majority as much as Romney did.

    This may sound a little perverse and brutal, but perhaps some strong medicine is now needed if the sheeple are finally to wake up to the reality that they have been fucked over – so bring it on I say for without radical and fundamental change, the vast majority in the US are doomed.

    1. Aquifer

      And what country are you a citizen of, again, that we here in the US are referred to as “you”?

      just curious ….

      1. Chris Rogers

        Wales, United Kingdom – and my fellow countrymen voted on the whole for left of centre candidates in the UK general election of May 2010 – what we get though is a Conservative/ Liberal Democrat government hell bent on destroying the social structure of the UK – the UK Conservative Party being effectively the US Democrat Party in terms of neoliberal addictions and sellouts.

        As for my once proud Labour Party, after being corrupted by the War Criminal Blair, I left the fold after the 2010 election due to its own corruption by neoliberal forces – I now vote Green in local elections and will vote Plaid Cymru in national/european elections.

        Hope that helps, and by the way austerity is working miracles in my country, well miracles for the ruling elite, the rest of us just suffer, something no doubt the US electorate will wake up to within the next 12-24 months – as if it has not suffered enough!!!

        1. Brooklin Bridge

          […]something no doubt the US electorate will wake up to within the next 12-24 months – as if it has not suffered enough!!!

          We pride ourselves on being able to take a lot of suffering before twiching. Obama will probably have instituted public hanging for debtors before we notice the half dozen drones hovering just above our houses and apartments.

          1. Chris Rogers

            If we consider the UK the 51st State of the USA – I guess the answer could be ‘Yes’.

            Further, and little in the debate this far is the question of ‘State Rights’ as opposed to focusing on the usurping Federal Government.

            Never being one for ‘small government’ you can actually have strong local/state government with a slimmed down Federal Gov’t – many fail to focus on this regionalism or localism as its referred too in Europe.

            Just another ‘fly in the ointment’ with regards the dialogue – one I trust that is not prey to the ideas espoused by the Tea Party and Republican’s.

            Further, one has an admiration for Vermont which may explain my musings.

    2. Doug Terpstra

      Spot on, Chris. The stark reality is that we are living in Orwell’s dystopia. The silver lining I see is the almost certain self-destruction of the Democratic Party over the next four years. Or maybe sooner: the solstice of 2012, the Mayan end of days, is only weeks away.

  7. Eureka Springs

    What are the odds of:

    The administration responding to this or any petition at all, much less favorably?

    If the administration removed E. B. from consideration, that they wouldn’t nominate yet another bankster/Peterson/austerity lovin’ neoliberal anyhow.

    I’m all for proactive behavior, but we need to quit trying old failed online petitions… especially the sort that even if we win… we still lose.

    1. Chris Rogers

      Well the administration will respond, much as it responded to oWS, that is labelling you as terrorists and threats against the state – the state being the 1% – the rest are but collateral damage as they accumulate more wealth at your expense.

      I cannot really make this up can I?

      1. citalopram

        Well, they haven’t officially gone *that* far yet, but we’re getting closer. There were murmers by various officials calling them terrorists, but the drones strikes haven’t started yet.

        As pessimistic (pragmatic) as I am about the future of this country, I really don’t think our rulers will do this. I think they know that moving in such a direction would effectively end their legitimacy is the most naked way; much better to hide it under the razor-thin veneer of smoke and mirrors.

    2. TK21

      It would take you, what 20 seconds to add your name to the petition? No one’s telling you to put all your faith in this effort and do nothing else. Just sign it. It might help and it couldn’t hurt.

      Who knows, opposition appeared to Bernanke’s re-nomination and Obama had to work to get him through. Maybe something like this could encourage more such opposition. Maybe it would send a signal to on-the-fence congressmen.

      1. ohmyheck

        On the one hand, signing a petition is one way to
        “make Obama do it”.
        On the other hand, my inbox will start getting inundated with messages…

  8. wbgonne

    i don’t care how many letters they sent
    morning came, and morning went

    let me know when the marches start

  9. Doug Terpstra

    Okay, I signed, but with no illusions. Signing petitions now is like feeding hyenas, I suspect. It only emboldens them.

    This one is really too much and reads like something from The Onion, but I recall the same process related to Bernanke’s reappointment to the Criminal Reserve, a protégé of disgraced Rand disciple, Alan Greenspan. Speaking of which, Bernanke is also rumored to be retiring next year, like his mentor, right before TSHTF once again. In our new Onionesque reality, any odds on who he’ll appoint?

    My first choice is Greg Mankiw, Romney’s neoliberal economic advisor. Better yet, Geithner, when he makes room for Bowles. I wonder if Kissinger is availble for CIA director. Calling George Orwell. Anyone?

  10. Michael Fiorillo

    Sorry, but as much as I want to register my opposition to The Great Betrayal, will not give my name or email address to, a for-profit organization that has allowed itself to be used as a cat’s paw for Michelle Rhee and other members of the Overclass who are intent on privatizing the nation’s public schools.

    Can’t we get a petition from a non-mercenary organization that actually believes in and fights for what most NC readers want?

    1. wbgonne

      Yes. I think something new is needed. For example, if all the Progressives who regularly read articles and post comments at web sites like this could get organized we could make an qualitative leap in impact. One thing we have learned to our profound chagrin is that keyboard warriors are no substitute for the real thing. And I write that as one who had banged out plenty of keystrokes. It doesn’t work. Bitching to likeminded folks doesn’t work. Online petitions don’t work. Direct action is needed. We must get up off our asses and start resisting for real. At the very least, we must initiate our own vehicles or else we will be penned into these shams like that merely serve as impotent vents while the plutocrats chortle away. Heck, you don’t even have to bother throwing online petitions into the trash.

      What does it take? It takes individual Americans fearlessly (or tremulously, makes no difference) stepping up and declaring their independence. First thing first. Turn off the TV. Start seeking out the truth. Naked Capitalism is a very good thing and maybe it could be much much more. Maybe it could be a launch pad.

  11. Hugh

    That Erskine Bowles is even being mentioned shows how in the bag Obama remains for the kleptocrats. It is wildly at odds with post-election calls for Obama to start delivering on the progressive agenda, as for example creating jobs as Bill Black does in the next post. Nahgonna happen. Obama is a high-ranking member of the elites, and our elites work for the kleptocrats. I keep saying this, but Obama isn’t kidding about all this neoliberal, looting-enabling shit he’s been inflicting on us for the last 4 years. He means it down to his bones.

    The rich and the elites, as Niebuhr pointed out long ago, create convenient rationalizations to justify the wealth and power they steal from us. Some embrace Social Darwinism, an Ayn Randian survival of the fittest view of humanity, to defend their ill-gotten gains. Others, and I would put Obama in this group, identify the good of the country with their good, the good of the rich and the elites. It is a paternalistic approach. The 99% must be lied to for their own good. They must be made to sacrifice (high unemployment, poor wages, high debt, foreclosure, expensive healthcare, and of course vastly diminished safety nets) so that the rich and elites may have the wherewithal to save them. It is very much a piece with the logic defying mentality of “destroying the village in order to save it” that we saw in Vietnam.

    Appeals and pressure on Obama to change course have had no effect in the past. Now with his last election under his belt, they will have even less. Indeed Obama will take his re-election as a legitimation of his last 4 years. Why would he change when voters just validated what he has been doing?

    All of this skirts an issue that I have addressed before. We are asking the looters, of whom Obama is undoubtedly one, to reform themselves and to put our needs, the needs of the lootees, above their own. It is just incredibly wrongheaded. It is crazy to ask looters to be fairer and more responsible in their looting, but that is what reform-minded liberals and progressives are asking of Obama and the Democrats.

    The first thing to understand is that the rich and their servant elites have no interest in reform beyond the distractive value its invocation has upon us rubes. The rich and elites are not going to save us. They are the ones destroying us. They can not reform or be reformed. They can only be replaced. And if we are really smart about it, we should avoid replacing them with new and “better” elites and rich, and so repeat our current mistake.

    1. nonclassical

      The rich and the elites, as Niebuhr pointed out long ago, create convenient rationalizations to justify the wealth and power they steal from us. Some embrace Social Darwinism, an Ayn Randian survival of the fittest view of humanity, to defend their ill-gotten gains. Others, and I would put Obama in this group, identify the good of the country with their good, the good of the rich and the elites. It is a paternalistic approach. The 99% must be lied to for their own good. They must be made to sacrifice (high unemployment, poor wages, high debt, foreclosure, expensive healthcare, and of course vastly diminished safety nets) so that the rich and elites may have the wherewithal to save them. It is very much a piece with the logic defying mentality of “destroying the village in order to save it” that we saw in Vietnam.


      I especially like the “it’s all the fault of the voters-people” excuse-blame the VICTIM..

    2. LeonovaBalletRusse

      Hugh, yes, confirmed by research into his earliest Uncle Tom days in Chi, working *Identity PolEcon* for the Pritzkers and the MultiCult Chicago Mob. He and Michelle fit the timeless paradigm of “Chicago: City on the Make.”

  12. MichaelC

    Why not Bowles (cont).

    3.He actively endorsed Tea Party candidates(who lost) whose votes he was counting on to proceed with the Catfood Commission plan. Those candidates principles are antithetical to the D base that returned O to the White House. Bowles should be exiled, not embraced by O for these manifold betrayals to his base and to himself.

    Re Fink as a more benign alternative.
    Think again.

    The FSOC gambit to interfere with MM Fund regulation has Blackrocks fingerprints all over it.
    If this were just a US interagency power struggle, that would be bad enough.
    But if Geithners gambit succeeds, he will have succeeded in derailing the global efforts to bring the shadow banking system under control.

    The Geithner proposal derails the G20 project to restructure MMs. The proposal is a direct refutaltion of the IOSCO proposals.

    If O appoints Fink as Treasury secretary, the G20 project is dead.

    1. MichaelC

      So much for Sheila Bair, sigh

      Bair said. “I like Erskine Bowles, I’ve known him for years I think he would be a very good Treasury Secretary.” Bair went on to say “that whoever the next Treasury Secretary is, should be one who can work with Congress on a bipartisan basis.”

      This obsessive call for O to find someone who can work on a bi-partisan basis is crazy talk. Republicans never work on a bi-partisan basis. Why in the world do the Dems feel bi-partisanship in the face of a rout of key Rs is necessary to them at this point. He should be focused on a rabid Democrat to face off against the equally rabid partisan Republicans and their bankster benefactors.

      Is Ryan going to turn all bi-partisany and accommodating on the catfood commission after his loss? Not likely.

      Accomodating the losers should be Os lowest priority. The voters elected him to go after the bankers and their R Congressman.

      Vengence might be priority one. It certainly would be if the Democrats had lost.

      Appointing a bi-partisan hack like Bowles is crazy talk.

  13. sk

    Absolutely, there should be SOPA & PIPA strength opposition to these rats. If someone knows how to do it, we should even start a second petition recommending someone sensible for treasury secretary, such as Sheila Bair, Yves Smith etc.

  14. p fitzimon

    Shiela Bair would be great for secretary of treasury. Republicans would find it challenging to oppose her since she is a life-long republican and was appointed to head the FDIC by a republican administration.

  15. Joe Firestone (LetsGetitDone)

    I signed. It’s not that I expect this petition to be successful; but I expect that right now it’s about making noise. We have to generate so much noise that the D Party gets the message. Cut SS and Medicare and lose in 2014 the way they did in 2010. Simple as that! They’ll be handing the election to the Rs, if this gets through the Senate and to Obama’s desk.

    1. cripes

      @ Joe Firestone
      “Cut SS and Medicare and lose in 2014 the way they did in 2010. Simple as that!”

      No, Joe, it won’t work. The Dems pull to the right, destroy the safety net, and then take a well-earned sabbatical. The Repugs pull to the right, grind up Grandma to make cut-rate catfood, and then you vote them out and return the Dems. So what?

      That. Is. The. Game.

  16. Brooklin Bridge

    I tried to sign this petition but they insisted on email address. I value the privacy (anonymity) of my email address and since I was willing to provide my physical address and my full name, I didn’t see the need for it.

    Sorry, good cause.

  17. F Libertarians!

    Given a choice between Geithner and Bowles, I’d rather have Geithner. I never ever thought I would say that but there’s a first for everything I guess….

  18. cripes

    Let’s face it. Obama will take his Christmas vacation to Hawaii, return and screw Grandma. The guy’s a serial elder rapist. Then he’ll start in on your kids.

  19. Steve Schnapp

    The appointment of such a key post as Treasury Secretary is all about politics. And as most commenters point on, the choices will be among candidates who come from and will represent the interests if finance capital. But the overwhelming majority (75%+) of voters of color rejected the candidate and party that represented white supremacy. Progressive voters of all colors also voted to reject the most blatant economic policies of the 1% and the social policies of homophobia and misogyny. Voters had little chance to vote for candidates who represented a vision of society of broadly shared prosperity, eductional equity, peace, and environmental sustainability. The fight against a Bowles appointment is an opportunity to reject the politics of austerity.

    Our task is to build a broad-based, multi-racial, multi-class democratic movement that can challenge plutocracy & plutonomy. We have to seek unity rather than arguing to win points to our view. Another world is possible if we work together.

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