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Ten Things on Which Matt Taibbi Really Does Not Know What He Is Talking About

It's hard to know how seriously one is supposed to take a Matt Taibbi who begins:

Obama's Big Sellout: Barack Obama ran for president as a man of the people, standing up to Wall Street as the global economy melted down in that fateful fall of 2008. He pushed a tax plan to soak the rich, ripped NAFTA for hurting the middle class and tore into John McCain for supporting a bankruptcy bill that sided with wealthy bankers "at the expense of hardworking Americans." Obama may not have run to the left of Samuel Gompers or Cesar Chavez, but it's not like you saw him on the campaign trail flanked by bankers from Citigroup and Goldman Sachs. What inspired supporters who pushed him to his historic win was the sense that a genuine outsider was finally breaking into an exclusive club, that walls were being torn down, that things were, for lack of a better or more specific term, changing...

Ummm... No. Barack Obama ran as a post-partisan African-American technocrat. His campaign fundraisers were chock-full of people from the left investment banks--you know, those people who spend 3/4 of their time making money and 1/4 of their time working to elect politicians who will tax them at higher rates because you were slaves to Pharoah in the land of Egypt, and for other reasons. The policy advisors on his conference calls during the campaign were the--very good assistant secretaries, undersecretaries, and secretaries from the Clinton administration. Barack Hussein Obama was out in front in support of Paulson's plan (which was remarkably effective in softening the downturn) to shovel government money at the bankers in the fall of 20098.

When an author is apparently as clueless as to what was going on a year ago as Matt Taibbi is, one has to wonder just how seriously one is supposed to take anything he writes. It's a purple rhetorical exercise in overstatement--we hope;

But in case anyone is tempted to take its truthiness as truth, its factoids as facts, let me lay down ten markers. I could lay down 50:

  1. The financial reform bill that just passed the House is not nearly as strong a bill as the Treasury wanted. The reason is not that Obama and Geithner did not push for a stronger bill, but rather that the members of congress balked at a stronger bill.

  2. Citigroup did not receive a $306 billion bailout as the first major act of Obama's presidency. First, where does the $306 billion number come from? The number I associate with Citigroup is $45 billion of TARP money. Certainly Citigroup would be bust and gone if not for government aid extended to it during George W. Bush's presidency--aid that Obama endorsed--but it now looks as though Citigroup will pay everything back: that the government will profit from the aid it extended to Citigroup.

  3. James P. Rubin is not James S. Rubin.

  4. The James Rubin whom Mike Froman brought in to staff the economic policy search was not Bob Rubin's son.

  5. The Obama economic policy inner circle--Tim Geithner, Gene Sperling, Larry Summers, Christie Romer, Peter Orszag--is not "a group of Wall Street bankers." It is only 5% Wall Street banker--only 1/4 of Larry Summers can possibly count as a Wall Street banker.

  6. Mike Froman staffed the economic policy search. Mike Froman--a very smart and capable man--did not lead the economic policy search. He was not some corrupt Svengali who foisted advisors who would whisper evil in the innocent Obama's ear. Obama led the economic policy search.

  7. Austan Goolsbee's absence from the transition staff was not notable. Austan Goolsbee does have a senior subcabinet appointment. And Austan Goolsbee is not a voice on the economic left--this is the man who told the Canadians not to take Barack Obama's claims that he wanted to renegotiate NAFTA seriously. I don't kknow the story of Karen Kornbluh.

  8. Ah. Taibbi says: "the government also agrees to charge taxpayers for up to $277 billion in losses on troubled Citi assets." First of all, $277 + $45 = $322, not $306. But a guarantee is not money at risk and money at risk is not money lost. As I said, it looks like the government is going to make money off of its support of Citi. (Albeit not off its support of AIG.)

  9. Tim Geithner was not hired as Treasury Secretary by Mike Froman. Tim Geithner was hired as Treasury Secretary by Barack Obama.

  10. According to CBO, the ARRA so far is not worth 640,000 extra jobs as of September 2009 but rather 1.1 million plus or minus 500,000--and that number will grow.

Why oh why can't we have a better press corps?