Treasury Cowards, Cojones and the Curious Case of the TARP Cop

Remember Neil Barofsky? You know, the guy who said the $700 billion bailout really cost something like $24 trillion?

That statement took balls, and large swinging ones at that. As for cowardly comments made about Barofsky on his way out the door? Well check out Standard Washington cowardice from Glenn Greenwald (via Salon):

A life-long Democrat who donated money to the Obama campaign, he vigilantly fought for his independence as TARP watchdog and has been relentless in his criticism of Treasury officials and especially Tim Geithner. The Washington Post reports today that Barofsky is resigning from his position, and the otherwise routine article by reporter Bradley Dennis contains this passage:

[Barofsky] quickly emerged as an aggressive overseer, viewed as a much-needed cop monitoring for waste and fraud within TARP by some lawmakers and watchdog groups, and, by Treasury officials and financial-industry representatives, as a self-promoter whose overreaching investigations scared some needy banks away from participating in the federal aid program. . . .

In his sometimes scathing reports to Congress, Barofsky showed little reluctance in criticizing administration officials on everything from how their lack of transparency was fueling "anger, cynicism and distrust" to how their foreclosure prevention efforts had fallen well below expectations. Barofsky was particularly hard on the government's bailout of insurance giant American International Group, saying that the Federal Reserve Bank of New York -- which was led at the time by now-Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner -- "refused to use its considerable leverage" and instead paid AIG's trading partners in full on the firm's debts.

Such criticisms did not sit well with Treasury officials, many of whom believed Barofsky's conclusions were overstated and aimed primarily at drawing media attention.

"We're fine with critics," said one Treasury official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to speak more candidly. "[But] he's been consistently wrong about a lot of big things."

Just ponder the utter cowardice and lack of professionalism needed to produce this passage. First, some aide to Timothy Geithner wanted to publicly slam Barofsky on his way out the door, but lacked the courage to attach his name to the criticism. So he told this Post reporter that he'd be willing to provide a derogatory quote about Barofsky, but only if he could hide behind anonymity when doing so. Barofsky has stood behind his public criticisms by putting his name on his reports and appearing unmasked in interviews, but this Geithner lackey is too afraid to do that. So he demands that the Treasury Department be allowed to malign him while hiding behind the Post's protective shield.

Then, the Post reporter, so desperate to include criticism of Barofsky for the sake of "balance" and in order to curry favor with the administration, agrees to channel the insults about Barofsky while concealing the identity of this Treasury critic -- for absolutely no good journalistic reason. Remember, this isn't some powerless whistle-blower granted anonymity to expose wrongdoing by someone in power. It's the opposite: Barofsky is on his way out, and this official is still at Treasury, undoubtedly doing the Secretary's bidding. Worse, the criticism is completely uninformative; it's just an unspecific insult claiming that Barofsky has "been consistently wrong about a lot of big things" without identifying a single alleged error. So anonymity is granted to allow a powerful government official to publicly malign someone in the most unaccountable manner possible.

Which big things are we talking about, chicken shit Treasury official? Certainly not your non-existent balls.

I think the problem here is that Barofsky was a little too good at his job if you ask me.

Jr Deputy Accountant

Some say he’s half man half fish, others say he’s more of a seventy/thirty split. Either way he’s a fishy bastard.