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Sometimes, the big dogs don’t have any bark, much less bite. That’s certainly the case with those overseeing Washington’s bailout of Wall Street – under both Bush and Obama, these officials are tail-wagging cozy with the very banksters who robbed us.
There is one small dog, however, that is barking, baring his teeth, and actually backing off some of the Wall Street money grabbers. He’s Neil Barofsky, Special Inspector General for monitoring waste and fraud in the initial $700 billion bailout that has gone to the banks. A measure of how little the big dogs care about this watchdog role is that Barofsky has been stuck in the basement of the Treasury Department and only has 30 employees and a $50 million budget to do this huge, complex job.
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But they can’t shut him up. While the top bailout officials insist that Wall Street bankers should be treated with kid gloves and not even have to tell us what they do with our money, Barofsky not only believes otherwise, but in February, he sent a letter to all recipients demanding that they describe in detail how they are using our money.
For such public-spirited aggressiveness, he has been branded an overreaching zealot both by Wall Street executives and senior Treasury officials. They whine that he is needlessly spreading fear among bankers, and they wail that some are even refusing to take bailout funds because of him. As one of the higher-ups at Treasury complained, “Some banks have said ‘Wow, this is scaring us.’”
Good! About time someone put a little fear in their cold, greedy hearts. As Barofsky calmly put it, “Any institution that is so concerned about having to report on its use of… taxpayer money really calls into question what their intent was on how to use that money.” Exactly right, Neil. Now that’s the attitude we need in Washington. Here’s an idea: Let’s put this small dog in charge of the whole bailout!
“Treasury watchdog: It’s our job to be aggressive,” Austin American Statesman, March 29, 2009.