As a member of the House Financial Services Committee, Rep. Brad Miller (D-NC) has had a front-row seat for the fireworks over the financial bailout -- and he's not convinced that the new administration has changed the Treasury Department.
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"I want change I can believe in," he told me in an interview late yesterday. "I don't think I have change I can notice."
Miller's chagrin over Treasury's lack of responsiveness and transparency signals a distressing trend for the Obama administration. As the nation seethes with anger over lavish spending at bailed-out banks -- particularly AIG's $450 million in bonuses to the same executives who bankrupted the company -- a number of lawmakers from both parties are pointing out that Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner's team could have clamped down on the excess earlier.
And Miller is no gadfly; he has worked with colleagues on predatory lending and mortgage bankruptcy measures that have become top-tier priorities thanks to the financial crisis. He was candid in calling out Geithner for failing to fully inform Congress about his management of the bailout: "I don't feel a lot of confidence in all of this, because I don't have much idea what they're doing ... I'm a fairly conscientious member of the Financial Services Committee, and I haven't found out."
One thing Miller is sure of is that Goldman Sachs, the alma mater of Bush Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, "had a lot of influence over" the decision to rescue AIG's counterparties (among which Goldman was No. 1).
"I don't want to sound like a right-wing conspiracy theorist who thinks the Trilateral Commission controls the world, but it seems [Goldman] had a lot of influence over this," he said, citing the Obama administration's decision to waive ethics rules to bring in a former Goldman lobbyist as Geithner's chief aide.
Miller was particularly aghast at AIG's suggestion that its Financial Products employees would sue if they were denied their retention bonus payments. "I've been wracking my brain thinking of ways we can sue them," he quipped.
Miller's not alone. After the jump, you can read more skeptical reaction to the Obama administration's sudden -- and likely ineffective -- change of heart on AIG's bonuses.