Is Citigroup trying to make Obama “anti-business”?

An invitation to bring your pitchforks: The big bank is back to its old excessively compensating ways

Topics: Citigroup, How the World Works, Bank Bailouts, Barack Obama, Taxes,

Is Citigroup trying to make Obama "anti-business"?President Obama

The U.S. government still owns about 17 percent of Citigroup, and it is probably reasonable to assume that the general public is still as outraged about excessive executive compensation as it was last year and the year before, but for the big bank, reports the Wall Street Journal everything is getting back to normal. With a deal supposed to be worth $30 million over the next three years, Citigroup has lured a top Houston-based energy banker away from UBS.

The deal with Stephen Trauber, an energy banker who defected this month to Citigroup from UBS AG, comes months after U.S. Treasury Department “pay czar” Kenneth Feinberg ended his oversight of Citigroup’s pay practices…. [T]he hiring coup was seen as a sign the bank has grown confident it can grant hefty pay packages without fear of government objection.

And why not? After years of growing income inequality, and a time when the American electorate is more upset and angry at Wall Street than it has been in decades, Democratic majorities in both the Senate and the House cannot even find their way to holding so much as a vote on whether or not to extend tax cuts for the rich. It’s almost as if Citigroup is taunting the Obama administration. You saved our bacon with bailouts, and you nicely refused to nationalize us. In return, we will now pretend that the last three years never even happened.

Writing in the Washington Post, political scientists Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson contribute an interesting piece of analysis that I was initially ready to write off just based on the headline alone: “Wall Street’s attacks could turn President Obama into a true populist.” Obama, I think most people would agree, whether fans or foes, will never be a “true” populist. That’s simply not the kind of guy he is.

But Hacker and Pierson actually make a pretty good case that the political dynamics are about to change drastically — and Citigroup is definitely lending a helping hand. Up until now, for Obama to get any planks of his agenda passed required appeasing Democratic moderates — exactly the people who right now are unwilling to take a stand on tax cuts for the rich. But after the election, the power of the moderate Democratic faction is likely to be greatly reduced. Part of this will be because Republicans retake House seats in districts that are traditionally more conservative. Part of it will be a numbers game. Getting to sixty votes in the Senate will now be impossible and the Republicans may well have a majority in the House. In this scenario, Obama has nothing to gain by continuing to hew to the middle ground, and a lot to lose if he doesn’t start figuring out a way to build up voter enthusiasm for Democrats by 2012.

Wall Street, on its part, is absolutely begging for retaliation. As Hacker and Pierson observe, the business community’s perception that Obama is somehow anti-business has little connection to reality.

The business-Obama divorce isn’t about personalities, and it’s not because the president and his economic team have pursued anti-business policies. Instead, it reflects a deeper disconnect between corporate leaders and the rest of America, rooted not just in the economic privileges executives enjoy but also in the particular ways business connects to Washington. This disconnect has blinded corporate leaders to the extent to which most Americans feel that the government, far from crushing corporate America, has been looking out only for those at the top….

The first reason for the disconnect is simply that the economic status quo is a lot less ugly for those at the top than for other Americans: Since the late 1970s, while middle-class incomes have grown only modestly, the incomes of the very richest Americans have skyrocketed. On Wall Street and off, executives have continued to pocket huge sums, even at moments when their companies and shareholders have suffered.

Case in point: Citigroup’s Stephen Trauber hire. It’s really hard to miss the connecting dots here. The middle class continues to get hammered, but Wall Street is back to its same old games, and thus, the case for raising taxes on the rich has never been better.

Need more convincing? David Cay Johnston crunches the latest numbers to get a sense of what the Bush tax cuts delivered to ordinary Americans. You have to wade through a lot of wonky analysis, but then Johnston hits you with his sledgehammer.

The tax cuts did not spur investment. Job growth in the George W. Bush years was one-seventh that of the Clinton years. Nixon and Ford did better than Bush on jobs. Wages fell during the last administration. Average incomes fell. The number of Americans in poverty, as officially measured, hit a 16-year high last year of 43.6 million, though a National Academy of Sciences study says that the real poverty figure is closer to 51 million. Food banks are swamped. Foreclosure signs are everywhere. Americans and their governments are drowning in debt. And at the nexus of tax and healthcare, Republican ideas perpetuate a cruel and immoral system that rations healthcare — while consuming every sixth dollar in the economy and making businesses, especially small businesses, less efficient and less profitable.

This is economic madness. It is policy divorced from empirical evidence. It is insanity because the policies are illusory and delusional. The evidence is in, and it shows beyond a shadow of a reasonable doubt that the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts failed to achieve the promised goals.

The Republicans have made it clear — they are campaigning on a return to the Bush years — less regulation and more tax cuts. If Obama doesn’t become at least a reasonable facsimile of a populist in response, he won’t get, nor will he deserve, a second term.

Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 14
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Pilot"

    One of our first exposures to uncomfortable “Girls” sex comes early, in the pilot episode, when Hannah and Adam “get feisty” (a phrase Hannah hates) on the couch. The pair is about to go at it doggy-style when Adam nearly inserts his penis in “the wrong hole,” and after Hannah corrects him, she awkwardly explains her lack of desire to have anal sex in too many words. “Hey, let’s play the quiet game,” Adam says, thrusting. And so the romance begins.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Elijah, "It's About Time"

    In an act of “betrayal” that messes up each of their relationships with Hannah, Marnie and Elijah open Season 2 with some more couch sex, which is almost unbearable to watch. Elijah, who is trying to explore the “hetero side” of his bisexuality, can’t maintain his erection, and the entire affair ends in very uncomfortable silence.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Charlie, "Vagina Panic"

    Poor Charlie. While he and Marnie have their fair share of uncomfortable sex over the course of their relationship, one of the saddest moments (aside from Marnie breaking up with him during intercourse) is when Marnie encourages him to penetrate her from behind so she doesn’t have to look at him. “This feels so good,” Charlie says. “We have to go slow.” Poor sucker.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and camp friend Matt, "Hannah's Diary"

    We’d be remiss not to mention Shoshanna’s effort to lose her virginity to an old camp friend, who tells her how “weird” it is that he “loves to eat pussy” moments before she admits she’s never “done it” before. At least it paves the way for the uncomfortable sex we later get to watch her have with Ray?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Hard Being Easy"

    On the heels of trying (unsuccessfully) to determine the status of her early relationship with Adam, Hannah walks by her future boyfriend’s bedroom to find him masturbating alone, in one of the strangest scenes of the first season. As Adam jerks off and refuses to let Hannah participate beyond telling him how much she likes watching, we see some serious (and odd) character development ... which ends with Hannah taking a hundred-dollar bill from Adam’s wallet, for cab fare and pizza (as well as her services).

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Booth Jonathan, "Bad Friend"

    Oh, Booth Jonathan -- the little man who “knows how to do things.” After he turns Marnie on enough to make her masturbate in the bathroom at the gallery where she works, Booth finally seals the deal in a mortifying and nearly painful to watch sex scene that tells us pretty much everything we need to know about how much Marnie is willing to fake it.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Tad and Loreen, "The Return"

    The only sex scene in the series not to feature one of the main characters, Hannah’s parents’ showertime anniversary celebration is easily one of the most cringe-worthy moments of the show’s first season. Even Hannah’s mother, Loreen, observes how embarrassing the situation is, which ends with her husband, Tad, slipping out of the shower and falling naked and unconscious on the bathroom floor.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and the pharmacist, "The Return"

    Tad and Loreen aren’t the only ones to get some during Hannah’s first season trip home to Michigan. The show’s protagonist finds herself in bed with a former high school classmate, who doesn’t exactly enjoy it when Hannah puts one of her fingers near his anus. “I’m tight like a baby, right?” Hannah asks at one point. Time to press pause.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Role-Play"

    While it’s not quite a full-on, all-out sex scene, Hannah and Adam’s attempt at role play in Season 3 is certainly an intimate encounter to behold (or not). Hannah dons a blond wig and gets a little too into her role, giving a melodramatic performance that ends with a passerby punching Adam in the face. So there’s that.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and Ray, "Together"

    As Shoshanna and Ray near the end of their relationship, we can see their sexual chemistry getting worse and worse. It’s no more evident than when Ray is penetrating a clothed and visibly horrified Shoshanna from behind, who ends the encounter by asking if her partner will just “get out of me.”

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Frank, "Video Games"

    Hannah, Jessa’s 19-year-old stepbrother, a graveyard and too much chatting. Need we say more about how uncomfortable this sex is to watch?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Desi, "Iowa"

    Who gets her butt motorboated? Is this a real thing? Aside from the questionable logistics and reality of Marnie and Desi’s analingus scene, there’s also the awkward moment when Marnie confuses her partner’s declaration of love for licking her butthole with love for her. Oh, Marnie.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Vagina Panic"

    There is too much in this scene to dissect: fantasies of an 11-year-old girl with a Cabbage Patch lunchbox, excessive references to that little girl as a “slut” and Adam ripping off a condom to ejaculate on Hannah’s chest. No wonder it ends with Hannah saying she almost came.

  • Recent Slide Shows



Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>