fresh voices from the front lines of change







Neel Kashkari is a former Goldman Sachs Golden Boy who left that infamous organization to join the Treasury Department, where he was responsible for overseeing $700 billion in bailouts to his former employer and other Wall Street firms. Now he wants to run for governor of California on that record.

Good luck with that.

Mr. Kashkari spoke with the Los Angeles Times in a Southern California center for the homeless, which the Times tells us is meant to underscore the idea that he is “a different kind of Republican.” What it really underscores that he has some kind of nerve. Goldman Sachs played an integral role in the epidemic of mortgage fraud which drove millions of homes into foreclosure and robbed many pension funds of working people’s retirement assets.

Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein oversaw the firm as it hacked away at Americans’ pension resources. Now he’s compounding his sins by participating in Fix the Debt, a group dedicated to further harming older Americans’ financial security by cutting Medicare and Social Security. Blankfein’s the banker who said his firm was doing “God’s work.” Now Kashkari’s announcing his political ambitions at a charity for the homeless.

God help them.

If Goldman Sachs has been doing God’s work, then God must love the homeless nearly as much as Mr. Kashkari would have us believe he does. Banker fraud around mortgage-backed securities caused the number of homeless to soar in California. More than 1.7 million homeowners and been foreclosed upon in that state since 2008.

One demographic that Kashkari has helped enormously is Wall Street executives. The bailout which he supervised – a bailout that came without conditions or restrictions on the bankers that caused the financial crisis – provided Goldman Sachs with the financial wherewithal to give out $11.9 billion in bonuses in 2009.

Is Neel Kashkari really “a different kind of Republican”? He says he supports gay marriage, reproductive rights, and immigration reform. But his only claim to fame is his youthful, nay, precocious accomplishment in shoveling hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars to fraud-ridden Wall Street banks.

Kashkari is self-aware enough to know that this is not a distinction that will sit well with every voter. And yet he insists that the bailout was “one of the best examples in modern American history of Republicans and Democrats coming together and putting country first.”

That pretty much epitomizes everything that’s wrong with corporate-funded, Wall Street-financed American politics. Kashkari’s one of those elite types who, unlike virtually all of the American electorate, believes that “Republicans and Democrats coming together” is an inherently wonderful thing – even when the result is something like the bank bailouts in which, to paraphrase John Lennon, they came together over us.

Kashkari’s social liberalism reflects both the personal beliefs of many Wall Street executives and their strategy for retaining and economic power. It’s a simple one, with a simple message for every American: We don’t care what you do with your body, but your bank account belongs to us.

Kashkari also says he wants to increase energy production, although he has no specific proposals. He might get some inspiration from Ed Begley Jr.’s cameo appearance on The Simpsons, in which Begley said he was driving a car “powered entirely by my own sense of self-satisfaction.”

Republicans aren’t the only ones known to meld Wall Street’s economic agenda with socially liberal policies. New Jersey’s latest Senator, Cory Booker, fiercely defends hedge funds while at the same time supporting individual liberties. Bill Clinton has been taking a very Wall Street line since he first became a national political figure. He’s also become increasingly liberal on personal issues, an evolution which has tracked closely with public opinion on the subject.

Might there be something personally appealing about Neel Kashkari,something that could sway a skeptical electorate? The Times reports that “He is divorced and lives in Laguna Beach with two giant Newfoundlands, Newsome and Winslow, who are named after former Cleveland Browns players.”

Dude. Seriously? In the state that’s home to the 49ers and the Chargers and epic college football rivalries like Berkeley vs. Stanford and UCLA vs. USC? Have Californians endured the economic calamities of the last five years only to wind up with a First Family made up of dogs named for football players from Ohio?

The Times also reports that Kashkari’s dogs have Twitter accounts,which one might think makes him a social outlier of some kind. But we’re told that Democratic Governor Jerry Brown’s corgi has one too. (See what we mean about “Republicans and Democrats coming together”? The results aren’t always pretty.)

The organization for the homeless which Kashkari visited is called the Illumination Foundation. Here are some hopefully-illuminating thoughts for Neel Kashkari, and for anyone else wants to run for office on a pro-Wall Street, pro-bank bailout “bipartisan” platform:

Enjoy your beautiful home. Take a run on the beach. Contribute to the charity of your choice (as long as it’s not Fix the Debt). Get a deep-tissue massage. Have a meaningful Twitter exchange with your dog.

But please don’t run for office. You won’t enjoy the experience, and the voters have already suffered enough.

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