Back in July, the Washington Post revealed how the private-equity firm of Tim Geithner — Treasury secretary during the Obama administration — profited from unsolicited high-interest loans that many would characterize as “predatory.”
Mass-mailing checks to strangers might seem like risky business, but Mariner Finance occupies a fertile niche in the U.S. economy. The company enables some of the nation’s wealthiest investors and investment funds to make money offering high-interest loans to cash-strapped Americans.
Mariner Finance is owned and managed by a $11.2 billion private equity fund controlled by Warburg Pincus, a storied New York firm. The president of Warburg Pincus is Timothy F. Geithner, who, as treasury secretary in the Obama administration, condemned predatory lenders.
Since the revelation of Mariner Finance’s loan program, Tim Geithner’s life has gone on . . . more or less as normal. Shortly after the Post report, he gave the keynote address at a CNBC conference with (ahem) Larry Kudlow, formerly of National Review and currently advising President Trump. Geithner is invited to the Brookings Institution to talk about the 10-year anniversary of the Wall Street meltdown and the financial crisis. He heads up the “Group of 30” forum that studies the health of the financial markets. He’s invited to speak at Yale University.
In other words, Timothy Geithner is a predatory lender, and no one around him cares.
He’s doing a lot of panel discussions and speeches about the 10-year anniversary of the financial crisis, and predatory lending isn’t coming up in those discussions. Back when Obama was president, he regularly denounced Americans being “treated unfairly by a credit card company, misled by pages and pages of fine print, or end[ing] up paying fees and penalties you’d never heard of before,” and consumers who are “targeted by the predatory practices of unscrupulous lenders.” Geithner is doing exactly what Obama denounced, but the former president just never quite gets around to criticizing Geithner publicly. No, instead, former President Obama is going around the country urging Americans to elect Democrats in the midterm elections, so that government will protect them from predatory lenders . . . like the former Treasury secretary.
Geithner’s gotten a little bit of grief from left-of-center writers here and there, but clearly it’s had minimal consequence on his life and career. No leftist protesters greet Geithner at his house and none (thankfully) scream at his children, the way they do for certain U.K. members of Parliament, such as Jacob Rees-Mogg. You’re not seeing Democratic senators line up and compete to denounce him in the most furious terms, the way they’re doing to honest, well-respected federal judge Brett Kavanaugh. Geithner is still welcome at CNBC conferences, and the Brookings Institution, and Yale.
It’s not that liberals no longer dislike predatory lending. It’s just that if you’re a prominent enough Democrat, you get a pass on things like that. Once you reach a high enough level in the hierarchy of the progressive aristocracy, you’re exempt from a lot of the rules.
This morning, the New York Times reports about the internal reaction at CBS as sexual harassment and assault allegations against CEO Les Moonves piled up.
We are going to stay in this meeting until midnight if we need to until we get an agreement that we stand 100 percent behind our C.E.O., and there will be no change in his status,” said one board member, William Cohen, a former congressman and senator who was defense secretary under President Bill Clinton, according to directors who heard the remarks and other people who were briefed on them.
A former Clinton cabinet official was insistent that everyone back the boss when he’s accused of sexual misconduct. I guess old habits die hard, huh?
Cohen declined to comment to the New York Times, and he’s not likely to face any further consequence of his stance. He was once a Republican senator but he quickly became part of bipartisan establishment Washington upon retiring from the Pentagon — making a fortune lobbying for defense contractors. He endorsed Hillary Clinton in 2016. He regularly appears on MSNBC and criticizes the Trump administration. He’s a powerful senator-turned-lobbyist and corporate board member defending a CEO accused of sexual harassment, everything progressives claim to hate, but I’ll bet very few of them remember him or perhaps have ever heard of him.
Perhaps liberal rage against the Norm Macdonalds, In-N-Out Burgers, and Kevin Williamsons of the world represents displacement. If a sense of partisan or ideological loyalty forces you to ignore and/or forgive sexual harassment by Bill Clinton, dysfunctional websites under Kathleen Sebelius, Veterans Affairs incompetence under Eric Shinseki, runaway firearms to drug cartels under Eric Holder, the largest breach of sensitive government data in American history under Katherine Archuleta*, and a total disregard for classified information under Hillary Clinton, you’ve probably got a simmering volcano of repressed anger to vent out disproportionately.
The concept of membership in the Democratic party being the modern equivalent of an indulgence, instantly washing away sin, is going to be appealing to some citizens and repellent to others. Some see a public reputation as a feminist as an excuse to harass and abuse others. Harvey Weinstein attended the Women’s March at Sundance Film Festival and when his horrific actions came to light, he tried to hide behind his support for progressive causes: “I am going to need a place to channel that anger, so I’ve decided that I’m going to give the NRA my full attention.”
Some progressives still insist that Al Franken was merely guilty of “boorishness” — as if they would ever hand-wave away similar allegations made against a senator whose positions they oppose.
Loudly supporting raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour doesn’t mean you have to pay your interns anything. Progressive candidates who court union endorsements oppose the unionization of their own campaign workers. The New Yorker, which has written numerous times about the need for affordable health insurance for everyone, does not offer any health-insurance plan at all to its writers. You can demand everyone else make sacrifices in the name of reducing carbon emissions while enjoying a jet-setting life and racking up the frequent-flyer miles.
I’m sure it looks different from over there, but from over here, being a self-proclaimed progressive or outspoken Democrat looks like a way to be a jerk and treat people terribly but still think of yourself as a good person.
A liberal counterpart of myself would probably argue that the Right exhibits this same hypocrisy, and to a certain extent, that’s true. The world has plenty of self-proclaimed Christians who don’t practice much Christian charity or mercy. The Catholic Church, whose main purpose is to provide moral guidance and leadership, can’t go a week without some high-ranking figure sounding like an amoral maniac when discussing sex abuse. There are self-proclaimed patriots who will set fire to their Nikes because Colin Kaepernick “disrespected the troops” but who have never sent a care package to a soldier. There are no doubt enthusiasts of the free market who tout “creative destruction” but who don’t like to think too long about the fact that this process ends up with hardworking people getting laid off and whose lives are suddenly filled with uncertainty and anxiety, through no fault of their own. We call for decorum but enjoy the shock-jocks on our side. We denounce the “victimhood mentality” and then embrace it when convenient.
There are folks who have an American-flag bumper sticker and who say they love their country but denounce kids as bratty, college students as stoned drones, young African-American men as thugs, young Latino men as gang members, big-city residents as decadent snobs, everyone on public assistance as a leech (except their own Social Security; they earned that), every government employee as a parasite, and everyone who works in the news media as an unscrupulous propagandist. These folks claim to love America, but they can’t seem to stand Americans.
Mona Charen wrote earlier this year, “A key conservative insight is that character is a matter of behavior, not professed beliefs. Judge people by their conduct, not their branding.” Of course, judging people by their conduct requires paying closer attention.
*I looked up what Archuleta is doing these days, after resigning from OPM in the aftermath of the worst data breach in U.S. government history. She’s on the board of trustees at the University of Denver, serves on the board of the Swanee Hunt Foundation, founded a political consulting firm, and helps pollsters manage data. Once again, if you reach a certain level in the Democratic party, you will always find opportunities and doors open to you, no matter what went wrong or how poorly you performed in your previous duties.
I wonder how many jobs the Trump administration is creating in the publishing industry:
Simon & Schuster announced that Bob Woodward’s Fear sold more than 750,000 copies in all formats through Tuesday, Sept. 11, when the book officially went on sale. Pre-order sales were the largest for any title in the company’s history. The publisher has ordered a ninth printing, bringing the number of hardcover copies to more than 1,150,000.
President Trump, Always Fighting on the Weakest Ground
And then this morning, the president insisted that the death-toll numbers from Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico were a hoax: “This was done by the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible when I was successfully raising Billions of Dollars to help rebuild Puerto Rico.”
(Fascinating that Trump sees the appropriation process as “successfully raising” money. As though Congress wouldn’t have sent aid to Puerto Rico without his lobbying.)
What’s particularly infuriating is that Trump could make a legitimate argument that the FEMA response to the hurricane was impeded by problems at the local level. I mean, how do you lose track of millions of water bottles on an airport tarmac?
But even that egregious example demonstrates that FEMA was getting aid to the island, refuting the never-quite-plausible argument that the federal government didn’t care or dragged its feet in getting aid to the island. Former Bush-administration officials pointed out that the island’s government had severe problems long before the hurricane hit:
Puerto Rico was a catastrophe of corruption, mismanagement, incompetence and ignorance long before the added misery wrought by Hurricane Maria, which exposed to the world what was there to be seen all along: an island ill-prepared for a sunny day, much less a stormy one. For at least a decade, the media has been sounding the alarm about the crumbling infrastructure and financial mismanagement of Puerto Rico.
Any fair assessment would take all of this into account and conclude that no matter how cheesy the images of the President of the United States throwing paper towels to people were, Puerto Rico’s problems with the hurricane were more than a simple narrative of “Trump didn’t care enough.”
But instead, Trump wants to argue that the death toll is a hoax.
ADDENDA: I’m joining my friend Cam Edwards on NRATV at 2 p.m. today.