Your new Treasury secretary

Yeah, it’s the notoriously right-wing Wall Street Journal editorial page, but still. Try to remember that when people are cooing about what a liberal Jack Lew is:

We wrote recently about the oddity of New York University paying severance to Mr. Lew in 2006 when he left there voluntarily to work at Citigroup. NYU hasn’t explained why it would pay someone for quitting to take a job on Wall Street.


As for the Citi paycheck, the story is how Wall Street has become a get-rich-turnstile for Democratic political operatives. The terms of Mr. Lew’s original employment contract with Citi included a bonus guarantee if he left the bank for a “high level position with the United States government or regulatory body.”


Most companies include incentives for top employees not to leave, but in this case the contract was written to reward Mr. Lew for treating the bank like a revolving door. Citi says it likes to accommodate employees who do public service or work at nonprofits. But the Lew contract was specific about a senior job in the federal government. There would be no special payout if he left to run the Red Cross or the New York state budget office.


Citi has been an especially nice landing spot for big-shot Democrats. Former White House budget director Peter Orszag is now a Citigroup vice chairman and somehow finds time to write a column for Bloomberg News. And there was former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, who was paid more than $115 million while encouraging the risk-taking that would have destroyed Citi if not for a taxpayer rescue.


Mr. Rubin was Mr. Lew’s patron at the bank. Mr. Lew’s contract suggests that Citi knew from the start that Mr. Lew was headed back to a powerful job in Washington, and that it wanted him to remember the bank fondly when he left. We have nothing against people making a living, but when they show up a few years later to do more “public service,” taxpayers have a right to know what their private employers were paying them to do.

Why Obama refuses to kill the sequester

Economist Bill Black:

We are in the midst of the blame game about the “Sequester.” I wrote last year about the fact that President Obama had twice blocked Republican efforts to remove the Sequester. President Obama went so far as to issue a veto threat to block the second effort. I found contemporaneous reportage on the President’s efforts to preserve the Sequester – and the articles were not critical of those efforts. I found no contemporaneous rebuttal by the administration of these reports.

In fairness, the Republicans did “start it” by threatening to cause the U.S. to default on its debts in 2011. Their actions were grotesquely irresponsible and anti-American. It is also true that the Republicans often supported the Sequester.

The point I was making was not who should be blamed for the insanity of the Sequester. The answer was always both political parties. I raised the President’s efforts to save the Sequester because they revealed his real preferences. Those of us who teach economics explain to our students that what people say about their preferences is not as reliable as how they act. Their actions reveal their true preferences. President Obama has always known that the Sequester is terrible public policy. He has blasted it as a “manufactured crisis.”
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The Department of Pre-Crime

I don’t even recognize this country anymore. Members of our ironically named “Justice” Department are little more than private security guards for the corporate elite:

A Justice Department representative told congressional staffers during a recentbriefing on the computer fraud prosecution of Internet activist Aaron Swartz that Swartz’s “Guerilla Open Access Manifesto” played a role in the prosecution, sources told The Huffington Post.

Swartz’s 2008 manifesto said sharing information was a “moral imperative” and advocated for “civil disobedience” against copyright laws pushed by corporations “blinded by greed” that led to the “privatization of knowledge.”

“We need to take information, wherever it is stored, make our copies and share them with the world. We need to take stuff that’s out of copyright and add it to the archive,” Swartz wrote in the manifesto. “We need to buy secret databases and put them on the Web. We need to download scientific journals and upload them to file sharing networks. We need to fight for Guerilla Open Access.”

The “Manifesto,” Justice Department representatives told congressional staffers, demonstrated Swartz’s malicious intent in downloading documents on a massive scale.

Swartz was 26 when he killed himself in January. He had been indicted by federal prosecutors in 2011 for downloading millions of academic journal articles from the nonprofit online database JSTOR using the Massachusetts Institute of Technology computer network. He faced a felony conviction and prison sentence for downloading the articles, though he maintained he had permission to access them.

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