Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Saturday, April 04, 2009

Mea Culpa to the Money Man

Paul Krugman and I owe Lawrence Summers an apology. In questioning the Obama toxic asset plan, I rashly compared the President's chief economic adviser to a used-care salesman and Krugman criticized his view of financial markets by suggesting, "Mr. Summers needs to get out more."

Now White House disclosure forms show Summers earned $5.2 million last year from a hedge fund and $2.7 million for addressing avid listeners from such as Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, JPMorgan, Bank of America, and the late Lehman Brothers. (A $45,000 fee from Merrill Lynch a week after Obama's election was discreetly donated to charity.)

Clearly, Summers has no need to be acquainted with previously-owned vehicles, and even Krugman will have to admit that he does get out frequently.

Where he goes is a different matter entirely. No one would begrudge a former Treasury Secretary and university president a standard of living befitting his station, but critics may feel he is giving the President advice that comes from the mindset that only months ago earned large sums and applause from the people now being bailed out by taxpayers.

Barack Obama frequently and rightly complains about being in a White House bubble, but he may want to take a closer look at the range of people he keeps in there with him.

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