Corporate Welfare

Larry Summers: Plus-sized Richelieu in the Court of the (Economic) Sunset King


Michael O'Mary gives the glad eye to Larry Summers.

Skip through the foray into complete fiction in this New York Times profile of President Obama's economic team ("With [an array of economic rescue plans], and the Fed's efforts, the economy shows signs of new life"), and you'll get a pretty good view of the deep, deep loathing chief economic advisor Larry Summers inspires in pretty much everybody. The closest Summers' intimates can come to a kind word is Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner's praise that Summers is "pretty good at making the case against anything."

Given that the ideas in play here begin at bad and continue through abysmal, that's probably not a bad trait. (In a piece of good news for rich incompetents everywhere, Geithner and the "populist" Summers agree that companies on the public tit should not be subject to executive pay restrictions.) But what really comes across is Summers' talent for ham-handed palace intrigue, as in this anecdote about the Chrysler debate:

[Austan] Goolsbee argued that rescuing the financial system was one thing, since credit is the economy's lifeblood, but the government should not run an auto company. Saving Chrysler, he added, could further harm General Motors, which stood to gain market share.

The arguments became so heated that Mr. Summers stormed from one meeting, a witness said. While he later included Mr. Goolsbee's objections in a memorandum for Mr. Obama, he excluded Mr. Goolsbee from the decisive meeting with the president.

There, [Christina D.] Romer expressed the objections from the Council of Economic Advisers, but made a point of naming the absent Mr. Goolsbee. That prompted Mr. Obama to ask, "Where is Austan?" He had the aide summoned to state his case, in what some aides took as a rebuke to Mr. Summers. The discussion continued that evening, and Mr. Obama decided on the course Mr. Summers supported.

When I had to edit Summers' very expensive and never-readable op-eds at the L.A. Times, I never got a chance to experience full-frontal Larry, as every change had to be begged through his own Waylon Smithers figure: assistant Michael O'Mary, who is pictured above basking in The Presence. I found O'Mary insufferable, and I regret that my effort to fit in with the MSM kept me from responding to his petulant messages with the "Settle down, Mary" they deserved. But this makes me think maybe the amanuensis was just reflecting the greater insufferability of the boss. In any case, Summers is still in the game to become the next treasurer or Fed chairman, so we may all get another direct whiff of the great man, if only through the smoke signals that will be the only means of communications left once the Obama geniuses are through with the American economy.

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  1. I’m pretty sure he’s gazing longingly at his master’s crotch, there.

  2. As recently as last summer, General Motors filing for bankruptcy would have been the biggest news story of the week. But it’s not such a very great step from the unthinkable to the inevitable, and by the time it actually happened the market barely noticed and the media were focused on the president’s “address to the Muslim world.” As it happens, these two stories are the same story: snapshots, at home and abroad, of the hyperpower in eclipse. It’s a long time since anyone touted GM as the emblematic brand of America – What’s good for GM is good for America, etc. In fact, it’s more emblematic than ever: Like General Motors, the U.S. government spends more than it makes, and has airily committed itself to ever more unsustainable levels of benefits. GM has about 95,000 workers but provides health benefits to a million people: It’s not a business enterprise, but a vast welfare plan with a tiny loss-making commercial sector. As GM goes, so goes America?

  3. I guess there’s no such thing as writer-editor privilege, eh Tim?

    In other news, I’ve thrown out my word a day calendar since it’s become superfluous with respect to H&R:

    aman?u?en?sis Listen to the pronunciation of amanuensis
    Inflected Form(s):
    plural aman?u?en?ses Listen to the pronunciation of amanuenses \-(?)s?z\
    Latin, from (servus) a manu slave with secretarial duties

    : one employed to write from dictation or to copy manuscript

  4. I regret that my effort to fit in with the MSM kept me from responding to his petulant messages with the “Settle down, Mary” they deserved

    Gold, Tim. Fucking gold.

  5. When I had to edit Summers’ very expensive and never-readable op-eds at the L.A. Times, I never got a chance to experience full-frontal Larry


    x2 on Epi… pure gold.

  6. Don’t you get it?

    Larry Summers is smart; really, really smart.
    He’s so smart, we should make him the Dollar Czar!

  7. You have to read the MSM for what it is; state run media. All this article is doing is setting up Summners to take the fall next summer when growth is still negative and unemployment is above 10%. Summners will be set up as the fall guy so that The Obama can look wise in replacing him. Sort of like Yezhov taking the fall for the terror. And like Yehsov, there will be a Beria to come along and replace Summners.

  8. “He’s so smart, we should make him the Dollar Czar!”

    Is that anything like the Dollar Store?

  9. “”

    Great jobs map.

  10. i’m sure you meant exPANsive… not expensive…

    but settle down mary is fantastic…

    and yes, summers is being set up as a fall guy…

  11. Shouldn’t Summers, a perennial favorite among Congressmen & Presidents for 20 years already have taken all the falls imaginable if he were to be a political patsy?

  12. The advice I give is based on determining the right course of economic action, recognizing all the political factors.

    This explains perfectly why he’s a perennial favorite who’s never the political patsy. It’s hard to tell someone to fall on their sword when they’re really, really good at mirroring your governing philosophy. He’s the consummate toady.

  13. No, I meant expensive. Nick Goldberg, the total incompetent who ran op-ed at the time (since removed and given a fig leaf-job on the editorial board) spent a million dollars a year on freelance op-ed contributors (on top of our regular columnists). Summers commanded the top-line price, and that was for pieces he wasn’t even writing for us: They were written for the Financial Times, as I recall, and the LAT only got second-publication rights — and we were contractually bound to publish them warts and all. Goldberg managed to work out deals like that all the time, and in many cases all that money was spent on print rights only, so we weren’t even allowed to run the stuff on the web site. (A non-issue for Goldberg, who to this day is sure the internet fad is just about to end.)

    Too much inside baseball, I know, but this does explain why a) the L.A. Times deserves to go out of business (but won’t) and b) I have a special loathing for Larry Summers.

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