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Hullabaloo


Monday, June 09, 2014

 
Geithner's dad was an economic hit man. 

by digby

Following up on his fascinating review of Tim Geithner's book, Matt Stoller excerpted various pieces which refer to his childhood.

Geither describes his father this way:
My father is quieter, more reserved, more skeptical, more conservative in every way. He’s an understated child of the fifties, a nice complement to my mother’s exuberant spirit of the sixties. He’s also a lifelong Republican, although he came of age in the Eisenhower era, before much of his party veered to the far right. He devoted his professional life to global development, not a typically conservative cause.
Geithner was born in 1961. How then can his father be a child of the 50s? It makes no sense. Children of the 50s are baby boomers. His father, most likely, was a child of the depression and WWII --- a very different type. Not that it matters really. Stoller is really highlighting the pieces of the book that show Geithner made it to the top through his connections and his family rather than any particular skill and I don't doubt that's very true.

The funny thing about his memories of living abroad as a child very much mirror my own. I too grew up as an expat, in some of the same places Tim Geithner grew up. In fact, we went to the same school in Thailand although not in the same years. That post-war period in the 1960s and 1970s was rife with swashbuckling Military Industrial Complex and International Construction types who lived what Geithner describes somewhat accurately as a "quasi-colonial" existence in exotic locales. (The difference was that those of us who were not from the elite social cast were right back in middle class suburban American life the minute we came home...)

But it is interesting that Geithner ended up where he did. Remember, his father "devoted his life to global development, not a typically conservative cause." If you read the book "Confessions of an Economic Hit Man" you can see what that really means:
Confessions of an Economic Hit Man is a book written by John Perkins and published in 2004. It provides Perkins' account of his career with consulting firm Chas. T. Main in Boston. Before employment with the firm, he interviewed for a job with the National Security Agency (NSA). Perkins claims that this interview effectively constituted an independent screening which led to his subsequent hiring by Einar Greve, a member of the firm (and alleged NSA liaison) to become a self-described "economic hit man".

According to his book, Perkins' function was to convince the political and financial leadership of underdeveloped countries to accept enormous development loans from institutions like the World Bank and USAID. Saddled with debts they could not hope to pay, those countries were forced to acquiesce to political pressure from the United States on a variety of issues. Perkins argues in his book that developing nations were effectively neutralized politically, had their wealth gaps driven wider and economies crippled in the long run. In this capacity Perkins recounts his meetings with some prominent individuals, including Graham Greene and Omar Torrijos. Perkins describes the role of an EHM as follows:
Economic hit men (EHMs) are highly paid professionals who cheat countries around the globe out of trillions of dollars. They funnel money from the World Bank, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and other foreign "aid" organizations into the coffers of huge corporations and the pockets of a few wealthy families who control the planet's natural resources. Their tools included fraudulent financial reports, rigged elections, payoffs, extortion, sex, and murder. They play a game as old as empire, but one that has taken on new and terrifying dimensions during this time of globalization.
For me, "Confessions of an Economic Hit Man" was a big eye-opening book on the level of "The Shock Doctrine." Perhaps that's because I grew up in that milieu that it rang so true. That Geithner's father was one of those guys and that his son became who he became is wholly unsurprising. It's the family business.

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