Big banks or intracranial voices?

David Dayen in The New Republic:

Michael Froman, who is now U.S. trade representative but at the time was an executive at Citigroup, wrote an email to Podesta on October 6, 2008, with the subject “Lists.” Froman used a Citigroup email address. He attached… a sample outline of 31 cabinet-level positions and who would fill them…

This was October 6. The election was November 4. And yet Froman, an executive at Citigroup, which would ultimately become the recipient of the largest bailout from the federal government during the financial crisis, had mapped out virtually the entire Obama cabinet, a month before votes were counted.

When your children ask what a conflict of interest means, it helps to have examples like this at hand. It’s also a timely reminder of who’s calling the shots. But at least you can point your finger and blame Citibank, Goldman Sachs et al. Your opponents may be able to counter that the bailout was necessary for the US economy to function and that the amount of funds pumped into each bank is a minor detail relative to the macro impact of the relief program.

Can you discuss Russian politics in similar terms? Russian banks, oil companies, retailers, developers and food producers have significant lobbying power but they don’t get to decide either on issues like Crimea and Syria nor on the makeup of the presidential administration and senior cabinet posts. Who gets to decide? Whose interests do they have in mind? What’s their thinking process? Which would you trust better, Citibank or a black box?

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