July 22nd, 2012

Gretchen Morgenson writes:

[Neil Barofsky’s] story is illuminating, if deeply depressing. We tag along with Mr. Barofsky, a former federal prosecutor, as he walks into a political buzz saw as the special inspector general for TARP. Government officials, he says, eagerly served Wall Street interests at the public’s expense, and regulators were captured by the very industry they were supposed to be regulating. He says he was warned about being too aggressive in his work, lest he jeopardize his future career.

And so Mr. Barofsky, who formerly prosecuted Colombian drug lords as an assistant United States attorney in New York City, is schooled in the ways of Washington. One telling vignette comes early on in his book, when he is advised by inspectors general in other agencies about how to do his job.

As Mr. Barofsky writes, he had assumed that his assignment to oversee TARP meant that he should be fiercely independent from the Treasury Department, and vigilant against waste, fraud and abuse. But after canvassing other inspector generals for guidance, he writes, he learned of different priorities: maintaining and possibly increasing budgets, appearing to be active — and not making enemies.

Glenn Greenwald tweeted: The NYT’s Gretchen Morgenson calls Neil Barofsky’s new whistle-blowing book a “must-read” – so is her review.

Barofsky’s book is important and if you know nothing about the skullduggery of the past four years (or if you think the bailout of the banks was the right action to take) you should read the book, but what Morgenson’s review tells me is that the book would reinforce and not challenge what I already know and my knowledge in this area doesn’t need reinforcing.

I want to constantly call what I know into question, to chip away at my defenses, not continuously raise my walls around me higher.

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