Ali Frick rounds up the record of Bush administration financial mismanagement in the inimitable Think Progress style. Remember when $5.1 billion in expenses for Iraq reconstruction were charged with no documentation? Or the “widespread” waste and mismanagement on the millions of dollars spent on Katrina recovery? And this is to say nothing of the recent blockbuster scandal at the Interior Department.
For the sake of argument, it does seem to be the case that Hank Paulson and the Treasury Team aren’t as inept as the worst of the worst of the Bush administration. But at the same time, they’re asking for much more money. Figure only half as much theft and squandering as you get from a typical Bush initiative, but then inflate the total amount of money under discussion to $700 million and, well, there’s a problem. The FT’s “Lex” column has observed “Nor is the package necessarily a disaster for the taxpayer or the U.S. dollar. If the Treasury buys assets well, and confidence is restored, there is [a] chance that Mr. Paulson could win fund manager of the year.” Perhaps true, but “if the Treausury buys assets well” is a huge “if” and Paulson is asking for the authority to disburse the money with no oversight.
What’s more, though I suppose it’s indelicate to raise this point, Paulson’s going to be out of a job in a few months and presumably looking for employment in the very same financial industry he’s now in charge of bailing out. The potential conflict of interest is mind-boggling.