Some of the shrewdest analysts of American finance have argued that financial panic of 2008 was less a matter of lax regulation or reckless bets than a broader crisis of political economy — one in which the financial sector had simply become too large to fill its proper role in the larger economy and its power, relatedly, too great in Washington to be restrained within healthy bounds.
Along those lines, I sometimes think that a cultural anthropologist might be better prepared to analyze what’s happening today between the White House and Goldman Sachs than a political analyst or financial commentator.Remember, Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein was one of three Wall Street CEOs who famously stood President Obama up at a meeting at the White House back in December. Now, in response to the SEC’s fraud suit, which Goldman has made clear it will fight aggressively, the firm has taken the eye-popping step of retaining the services of Greg Craig as its chief legal defender.
Now, as you know, until recently, Craig was President Obama’s chief lawyer, as White House counsel. And protestations aside, few people believe White House claims that Craig left of his own accord. So hiring the president’s former lawyer as part of a brewing battle with the White House is unquestionably the sort of high-stakes, aggressive play that one associates with the kind of Wall Street trader who makes it all the way to the top. Constantly upping the ante and lead with your fists.