A creature of the corporatist state? Citigroup's 'fixer who works the system with people skills and political connections' 

As Bush's bailouts and Obama's subsidizing and regulating increase the role of government in the economy, they also change the values assigned to different skill sets. The changes are subtle, but the net effect is this: Denigrated is the skill of figuring out better ways to give consumers what they want; Rewarded is the ability to manipulate the political process.

I thought of this while reading this profile of CitiGroup Chairman Dick Parsons by Dealbreaker's Bess Levin. Now, I know nothing about Parsons beyond this profile, but here are some passages I found noteworthy:

First, what was he hired to do?

he was hired to be the one to go make nice with Washington, according to Vikram Pandit...

Second, what is his skill set?

He is, instead, a master in the art of the relationship, particularly as practiced in back rooms

He’s an old-fashioned fixer who works the system with people skills and political connections. Parsons has spent a good chunk of his professional life assuaging furious employees, aggrieved shareholders, and frustrated regulators. His success is a reminder that, as much as we celebrate creativity and innovation in business, the schmoozer abides.

Now, schmoozing is always valuable, but as government becomes more powerful, lobbying becomes more valuable -- and schmoozing becomes more important relative to "creativity and innovation." That divorces profit from the creation of valuable things, thus hurting society.

Then there's this passage:

Parsons had a chummy relationship with the Treasury Secretary. “Timmy Geithner would say, ‘Call me directly, because this is too important an institution to go down,’” Parsons says. According to the Treasury Secretary’s schedule, available online, Geithner spoke frequently with Parsons in 2009.

Unsurprisingly, he's an Obama donor and a McCain donor -- though leaning heavily GOP.

Dick Parsons is probably a great guy. But consider the fact that Obama, by increasing government intervention in the economy, is making more of these guys, and fewer innovators.

About The Author

Timothy P. Carney

Pin It
Favorite

More by Timothy P. Carney

Latest in Nation

© 2018 The San Francisco Examiner

Website powered by Foundation