The $700 Billion Man –

So whatever happened to Neel Kashkari? You know, the guy who “Hammerin’ Hank” Paulson appointed to oversee TARP? Well, the Washington Post caught up with him in Nevada County, California. At any rate, this should make everyone feel great:

“Seven hundred billion was a number out of the air,” Kashkari recalls, wheeling toward the hex nuts and the bolts. “It was a political calculus. I said, ‘We don’t know how much is enough. We need as much as we can get [from Congress]. What about a trillion?’ ‘No way,’ Hank shook his head. I said, ‘Okay, what about 700 billion’ We didn’t know if it would work. We had to project confidence, hold up the world. We couldn’t admit how scared we were, or how uncertain.”

via The $700 billion man –

I’m usually not a big fan of anything from the Washington Post, but Laura Blumenfeld’s piece was well done.

As someone who lived in Maryland and the D.C. suburbs for a long time, I can identify with Kashkari’s seemingly love/hate relationship with the District. It’s a place where you can have impact, for sure. But the place also has an impact on you, too. And usually, the impact you have there is far, far, less then the impact the place has on you.

I’ve always had the feeling that in order to succeed there, you had to have a cold, Machiavellian, will to win. It didn’t matter what the game was or what the prize was. If it was to win a debate about public policy, go out there and debate the other side’s pants off and win. If it was more personal, then smear ’em. Drag their name through the mud. Tear them down. And if you find something to get them brought up on a federal indictment, all the better because nobody survives those.

The fact he’s out in the California mountains in a pretty remote location speaks volumes. Volumes about the lengths he has gone to so he can put D.C. behind him, volumes about what he thinks might happen. It really comes through in this quote:

He rounds a corner and there stands the shed, in an old horse corral. He began designing it in his mind on Christmas Eve when incoming Treasury secretary Tim Geithner asked him to stay for the new administration. Kashkari didn’t have anything to store in a shed but he knew, right then, that he needed to build it:

“I had to do something with my hands. It’s a big amorphous unknown — what’s going to happen to our economy. And the shed is solid, measurable. I can see it, I can touch it. It’s going to be around for the next 30 years. It’s the opposite of amorphous.”

Now if the article went on to say he was building a panic room and an arsenal that included a .50 caliber rifle and he had a concealed carry permit, that’s all I’d need to see/read to know where his head is about the future.


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