Political Abyss

Former White House Budget Director Peter Orszag accepts vice-chair position at CitiGroup Inc.

In CONTROVERSY, POLITICS TODAY on December 14, 2010 at 6:19 am
By Maurice E. Duhon, Jr.

Courtesy of garyvarvel.com

Tuesday, 12/14/10

A business environment void of ethics and moral character tends to allow questionable motives and happenings to easily drift by unnoticed.  As for the philosophies of Yin and Yang, light versus dark, and the eternal struggle of good and evil, I understand there is an idealistic balance to everything in our surroundings.

There are good businessmen and there are also bad businessmen.  Not knowing Mr. Peter Orzag personally, I will give him the benefit of the doubt and hope he falls into the “good” category.  With this being said, the decision Mr. Orszag has made to accept the position of vice-chairman of Citigroup’s investment banking division, I believe, was made with little concern for the practical minded American tax payers who would tend to view the move as a conflict of interest or at least a reversal of that concept.

Peter R. Orszag, an economist who served under the Bush administration as the director of the Congressional Budget Office from 2007-08, was nominated by President Obama in 2008 to serve as director of the Office of Management and Budget.  Orszag was reluctant to accept the position and emphasized he would only hold the position for two years, common practice for most budget directors.  The duties of the OMB are to craft our federal budget and to oversee the effectiveness of federal programs.

What a busy two years they would turn out to be.  Ironically, Mr. Orszag’s first assignment as the new budget director was to greatly add to our nation’s deficit, $1.3 trillion for the fiscal year at the time, by contributing to the construction and design of a $787 billion dollar two-year stimulus package.

Among US banks, Citigroup, Inc. received the largest amount of tax payer dollars during the numerous bailouts that were facilitated during our nation’s financial crisis.  That is of course, assuming the crisis has passed.  Citigroup received $45 billion in the corporate bailouts of 2008, repaying $20 billion last year and converting the remainder into stock.

With Citigroup being the recipient of the largest amount of tax payer dollars during a bailout constructed by the exact same person whom has recently accepted a high ranking role in their future business practices, I am reminded of Shakespeare’s’ “Hamlet” and Marcellus’ foreshadowing quote, “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.”  The fish, our government, maybe rotting from the head down and all is not well at the top of the political hierarchy.  Denmark is “an unweeded garden” of “things rank and gross in nature” (Act 1, scene 2).

Maybe Peter Orszag’s decision to accept such a presumably high paying position at Citygroup was merely a simple coincidence.  See, I can be rational and non-judgmental.  Unfortunately I must return to reality and comprehend the fact; Peter Orszag’s position as director of Management and budget was filled by Jacob Lew, whom worked for Citigroup from 2006 to 2009.  I smell fish once more.  I’m afraid it seems the state of Denmark isn’t the only place suffering from a rotten smell these days.

In my need for bureaucratic coddling, Citigroup’s sarcastic procedural humor offered me this small sense of comfort.  According to Bloomberg.com, John Havens, chief executive officer of Citigroup’s institutional client group, stated December 9th, to comply with “applicable ethics rules,” Orszag’s work at Citigroup won’t involve contact with U.S. federal government officials.

With big business politicians now climbing out of the woodwork attempting to legislatively privatize our nation’s health care, our nation’s school system, and our social security program; what is keeping them or who is to say they haven’t already privatized our White House and the governmental body it was constructed to uphold?  Also, I am forced to ponder; being only 30 years of age, am I on my way to becoming a non-social security receiving curmudgeon? 

For those of you whom are new to the “Rotten in Denmark” quote, here is a summary of its concept.

Courtesy of www.enotes.com

HoratioHe waxes desperate with imagination.

Marcellus:  Let’s follow. ‘Tis not fit thus to obey him.

Horatio:  Have after. To what issue will this come?

Marcellus:  Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.

Horatio:  Heaven will direct it.

Marcellus:  Nay, let’s follow him. [Exeunt.]

 Hamlet Act 1, scene 4, 87–91

This is one time when the popular misquotation—”Something’s rotten in Denmark”—is a real improvement on the original. But you ought to be careful around purists, who will also remember that the minor character Marcellus, and not Hamlet, is the one who coins the phrase. There’s a reason he says “state of Denmark” rather than just Denmark: the fish is rotting from the head down—all is not well at the top of the political hierarchy.

 There have been some hair-raising goings-on outside the castle at Elsinore. As the terrified Horatio and Marcellus look on, the ghost of the recently deceased king appears to Prince Hamlet. The spirit beckons Hamlet offstage, and the frenzied prince follows after, ordering the witnesses to stay put. They quickly decide to tag along anyway—it’s not “fit” to obey someone who is in such a desperate state. In this confused exchange, Marcellus’s famous non sequitur sustains the foreboding mood of the disjointed and mysterious action. And it reinforces the point and tone of some of Hamlet’s earlier remarks—for example, that Denmark is “an unweeded garden” of “things rank and gross in nature” (Act 1, scene 2). When his father’s ghost tells him his chilling tale in scene 5, the prince will realize just how rotten things really are in Denmark.


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