Wall Street

Barack Obama, Venture Capitalist?

"The conversations I have with Silicon Valley and with venture capital pull together my interests ... in a way I find really satisfying," the president said.

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Pool/ABACA/Newscom

The funniest political moment of the past month came in President Obama's interview with journalists from Bloomberg News and Bloomberg Businessweek.

Bloomberg rendered the transcript of it like this:

So it's unlikely, then, that you'll go to work on Wall Street?

Obama: (Laughs)

It is indeed a humorous exchange, though perhaps not for exactly the reason that President Obama laughed. The funny thing, at least to me, was that Obama didn't rule it out.

In the rest of the interview, Obama tried to distinguish between the financial sector and other parts of the economy that he characterized implicitly as either more virtuous or more productive.

"Banking profits are not as outsized as they were, but I don't consider that a bad thing, and I think most Americans don't either," the president said. "If you start getting to the point where 40 percent of the economy is taken up by the financial sector and that our best and brightest are going into financial work as opposed to engineering or computer science, then we could actually lose our competitive edge over time."

When the Bloomberg journalists asked the president what industries he would think about going into, Obama talked Silicon Valley instead of Wall Street. "Just to bring things full circle about innovation—the conversations I have with Silicon Valley and with venture capital pull together my interests in science and organization in a way I find really satisfying," the president said, mentioning "precision medicine."

Obama's concern about properly allocating talent is touching, but, as his own example shows, misplaced. If anything, top talent these days is flowing away from Wall Street and toward technology. Ruth Porat left her perch at Morgan Stanley to become chief financial officer of Alphabet, as Google's parent company is now known. Jeffrey Bezos left the D.E. Shaw hedge fund to start Amazon.com.

Anyway, the Wall Street-Silicon Valley dichotomy is in many ways a false one.

It's false morally to suggest that what Silicon Valley does is somehow more virtuous than what Wall Street does. Is some programmer or product manager working on some violent video game or on a messaging app that lets teenagers spread nasty gossip or indecent photographs doing more good in the world than a portfolio manager who is making a secure retirement possible for his clients?

As a practical matter, the president erred by ignoring the overlap between the two sectors. Bloomberg itself is a fine example — it's a technology company that employs computer scientists and engineers and also part of the financial sector because a lot of its customers are financial firms. Plenty of other companies also occupy the terrain between tech and finance. What about the computer guys who make sure your bank account or brokerage account doesn't get hacked? There's a whole rapidly growing "FinTech" sector at the intersection of banking and technology.

Obama suggests that "40 percent" of the economy in the financial sector, however that is defined, is too much, but the Bloomberg guys didn't ask him the natural follow-up questions. What's the right percentage? Thirty-nine percent? Thirty-eight and a half percent? How can Obama know so confidently? Why would anyone want the president to set and manage these percentages rather than allowing the sizes of sectors to be determined organically by the choices of free individuals?

Obama will be out of office soon enough. Unfortunately, both of the major party presidential candidates vying to succeed him seem determined to follow in his Wall Street-bashing footsteps, at least rhetorically. Donald Trump has denounced Hillary Clinton as being "totally owned by Wall Street." "Hillary Clinton is the enemy of working people and is the best friend Wall Street ever had," Trump said in a statement last week, as if no one on Wall Street is a working person.

Clinton, campaigning last week in Raleigh, North Carolina, denounced "Wall Street's obsession with short-term share prices and quarterly earnings." She complained that government "let Wall Street take big risks with unregulated financial activities." She promised "accountability, so Wall Street can never wreck Main Street again."

Somehow I doubt the talk will hurt the candidates' prospects for post-presidential employment. Say what you will about Wall Street or Silicon Valley, either place is at least capable of finding work for recovering politicians in capacities where they are likely to do less harm than in the White House.

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63 responses to “Barack Obama, Venture Capitalist?

  1. He should stick to selling guns and ammo.

    1. If he ends up being nominated to the Supreme Court he absolutely will.

      1. Dear God, no! He’s unbearably pedantic enough already.

    2. He’ll do just fine in VC work. Much of it is nothing more than getting money from cronies and govt privileges/protections for the startups so that they can farm all the suckers come IPO time.

    3. That idiot pimp has been the biggest puppet for the mega banks ever.

      He has made more old rich white guys richer than any politician in history

      So far his greatest contributions to the markets have been the increase of firearm sales and more FED pumping/bubble creating.

      He makes it hard to get ammo on certain occasions however.

      The man might be the stupidest puppet in history. Hopefully he will not succeed in destroying the 2nd amendment.

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  2. “If you start getting to the point where 40 percent of the economy is taken up by the financial sector”

    “Which I fixed by making a significant part of our economy be taken up by Government and Health Insurance”

    1. What’s funny is – health insurance is part of the financial sector.

  3. What the fuck does Obama know about either finance or technology?

    1. About as much as he knows about running a country?

      1. Saw your Wedge reply. Where did you grow up/ go to HS?

        1. Rowland Heights for HS. Moved to CA in 8th grade.

          1. “Rowland Heights is a relatively affluent unincorporated community and census-designated place of 13.1 square miles ”

            Well look at you, 1%er!

            1. It is now, since the area became a largely Asian community in the years since I left.

              My folks did recently punch out, and sold their $100K 3 bdrm ranch for $.5M.

              Moved to AZ.

              It was still fricken horse farms and avocado trees on the edge of the San Gabriel valley when I left for the Army. Nothing but wall-to-wall homes now days.

              The only time I’ll go back is to visit my brother in Anaheim, now.

    2. This is a man who invested in Solyndra, Abound Manufacturing Solar LLC, Fisker Automotive Inc., and beacon power . He has consistently lost everything . With a record like that he is a natural .

  4. He’s Mister Fucking Innovation, he is. I’m sure VCs will be showering him with moolah.

    I wouldn’t give that idiot ten bucks and send him out to get me some lunch.

    1. Getting rid of him for $10 would be a fucking bargain.

    2. I’m sure VCs will be showering him with moolah.

      Sadly, he’s making an economy where I wouldn’t be in the least surprised if they did. If governments can make or break businesses the most important resource a business can control is those with access to government.

      Of course, these are the same sorts of pieces of shit who will insist that we have to get money out of politics.

      1. The only way to get money out of politics (pretending for a moment that it makes a difference anyway) is to make politicians not worthy buying.

      2. So much this. But trying to explain that to a progtard is like trying to teach a cat algebra

        Same people wanting to get out the vote, but only if it’s for their people

  5. He Venture Capital’d the fuck out of Solyndra.

  6. Is some programmer or product manager working on some violent video game or on a messaging app that lets teenagers spread nasty gossip or indecent photographs doing more good in the world than a portfolio manager who is making a secure retirement possible for his clients?

    The example i would have preferred… would either have emphasized the value of “making a secure retirement possible” without relying entirely on the beneficence of social-security….(pointing out that the future sustainability of Govt programs often relies highly on them *not being needed* for people’s prosoperity)

    … or – perhaps even better – “a portfolio manager who is making investment decisions to ensues the viability of the trillion+ $ in public pension funds his crony constituents so depend on?”

    The largest institutional investor in the country is “The State” (on behalf of state employees). It is also the worst-performing institutional investor.

    1. That’s one takeaway from that particular rhetoricalish question. I was just thinking, damn, we all got to get off of Ira Stoll’s lawn.

  7. He will make over $10 million per year giving “insightful” speeches to fawning supporters and rent-seekers. Unlike GWB, he will intrude on the scene for the next thirty years and will be fawned upon by the media and comedians like he’s the second coming.

    1. I know. The one thing I dread about the post-Obama era is, there really won’t be a post-Obama era.

      This narcissistic attention whore and his wife will insist on being the bride at every wedding for the rest of my life, and the DemOp Media will eagerly lap up every bodily secretion they emit. They will be unavoidable, and unbearable.

      1. Who would be shocked if that clown started hinting that the 22nd Amendment should be repealed?

        1. I’d be fine with him suggesting it should be repealed. As with most amendments, the problem is that he just straight up ignores it.

      2. The clinton machine will be the blue print for the obama machine.

        1. Already underway. “Organizing for America” is Obama’s personal cash and influence machine.

          1. Just step 1. He needs to go global like the Clinton Foundation.

            1. The real question is, has he used to to launder drug money for the CIA yet?

  8. Let me hep you, Sonny.

    “If you start getting to the point where 40 percent of the economy is taken up by the financial political sector and that our best and brightest are going into financial work politics as opposed to engineering or computer science, then we could actually lose our competitive edge over time.”

    1. Luckily, there is absolutely no evidence that our ‘best and brightest’ are going there.

      Just our ‘most nakedly ambitious and depraved’.

      yay.

  9. Just to bring things full circle about innovation?the conversations I have with Silicon Valley and with venture capital pull together my interests in science and organization in a way I find really satisfying,

    He has certainly hid these interests well to date, hasn’t he?

  10. “If you start getting to the point where 40 percent of the economy is taken up by the financial sector and that our best and brightest are going into financial work”

    Definitely greedy Wall Street’s fault. Certainly, it has nothing to do the accounting and compliance required by the IRS, SEC, Treasury, State, and local regulations.

  11. I think what he’s really saying is that in exchange for the billions of $ of subsidies and benefits he’s thrown at “Green Tech” over recent years, he wants these Tom-Steyer-esque people who’ve sucked up all that free money to pay him back with some cushy job as “Ambassador” for their industry. A handshaker who flies around and ensures other governments keep the bullshit Climate-Change-related-Technology gravy-train running

    he said as much in his speech to the Stamford people last Thursday.

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  14. When/how, exactly, does he intend to reveal his abiding interest in “organization”? The guy’s managerial incompetence is breathtaking.

  15. Obo is happy to be a VC so long as he’s ‘investing’ taxpayer money. And he’s proven to be particularly apt, too!

  16. If I was a tech billionaire, I’d probably hire him.

    Just so I could fire him in the most public and humiliating way possible.

    1. Make sure to set aside some $ for a discrimination suit.

    2. Just wait until the article about how Obama stood up to his billionaire boss and got fired for it…

  17. By investing, you mean losing?

  18. “Is some programmer or product manager working on some violent video game or on a messaging app that lets teenagers spread nasty gossip or indecent photographs doing more good in the world than a portfolio manager who is making a secure retirement possible for his clients?”

    Yes??

    I mean a software designer does less to help someone individually than a portfolio manager, but software can service FAR more people than the number of clients a portfolio manager can have.

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  20. How can the government waste money on future Solyndra boondoggles if the next generation of Solyndras are never started?

  21. Grifter gotta get on to his next grift.

    1. ^This

  22. Yeah, tell me another one Obama. With that sweet taxpayer money you’ll receive for the rest of forever I imagine you could wisely invest in the things you set up to invest in before leaving office, make a billion, and then help Alphabet do whatever it is Alphabet does.

    /tinfoil

  23. Well good thing that the financial sector is no where near 40% of the economy, and never has been. But do you what is close to 40% of the economy and essentially unproductive….

  24. The idea that anybody would care what Barack Obama thinks about a venture capital deal is ludicrous.

    One time, I saw an interview with the lead singer of RATT, a hair band from the ’80s. They asked what he thought he’d be doing if he hadn’t made it in a hair metal band, and his response was that as a teenager, he was training to be a drag car racer.

    That isn’t a real thing. I mean, most of your drag car racers are older guys (and their daughter) who own a separate business, semi-retire, and write the expenses for drag racing off of their business’ taxes as promotional.

    Here’s video of John Force beating his daughter for the NHRA funny car championship.

    Nobody recruits drivers because they’re so awesome at shifting fast. It’s about having the money to put a couple of funny cars together–one for you and one for your daughter.

    Yeah, listening to Obama talk about being a venture capital guy? It’s even dumber than that–because Obama can’t shift fast. He doesn’t even understand what shifting means. It’d make more sense if Obama said he wanted to go to Hollywood and star in action films like Will Smith. Obama is a retard.

  25. RE: Barack Obama, Venture Capitalist?
    “The conversations I have with Silicon Valley and with venture capital pull together my interests … in a way I find really satisfying,” the president said.

    At first glance, this would appear that Dear Leader is a hypocrite.
    Nothing could be further from the truth.
    One must recall and understand that Dear Leader is an important, if not the most important, cog in our socialist slave state which he wisely help make. As we all know, socialism is for the collective and not for the ruling elites. The socialist slave masters must be allowed to engage in capitalist enterprises because they have helped enslave us all. No amount of thanks we give them will suffice for making our lives a bucket of yesterday’s shit. Therefore, let us allow them to make a ton of money off the evil capitalist business as a token of our appreciation. Nothing but good will come from this. This way, they can make even more money because they didn’t make enough money from “campaign contributions,” cronyism, taxpayer paid pensions and top selling books ghost written by other people.
    So let us all turn a blind eye to Dear Leader’s blatant hypocrisy and be grateful for the wonderful path he has paved toward socialism, oppression, and economic ruin.
    After all, all that work is not easily done as it would seem.

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  27. I’ll bet he never actually works again other than droning on for dollars. Not working and getting paid for it is who he is.

  28. Man I hope that dipshit tries to go into business after president. He will be such a colossal failure if he buys an NBA team.

    Then he will end up as Al Sharpton extorting money from people the rest of his life. He is incapable of intelligent thought.

    All he can fathom is injustice and laying blame. He has no idea how the world works. Quite possibly one of the stupidest people that ever held office.

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  33. I find it more likely he will go in that direction in order to pressure tech companies to be more compliant with unconstitutional spying.

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