"Pundita, have you heard? [US Treasury] Secretary Snow said he wouldn't rule out Bono as a candidate for World Bank president. Isn't that a hoot?
[Signed] Claudia in Taos"
Every German finance minister serving in the post-WW2 era has been completely convinced that his American counterpart was barking mad. The candidates John Snow likes for World Bank president help explain why. But at least John Snow barks madly on Earth. The last Treasury Secretary, Paul O'Neill, stationed himself on Pluto. There he met Bono.
So there we were in the post-9/11 days, with the world on fire and the US economy teetering. President Bush would come to work in the morning, look around the conference table and ask Cabinet members, "Where's my Treasury Secretary?"
He was running around Africa with Bono. After Bush fired him, O'Neill wrote a book in which he complained that Bush wouldn't listen to him after their first meeting. But after you've heard, "Arf arf arf arf arf arf arf!" you don't need to hear the thoughts expressed a second time.
As to where America's presidents find these people--well, at least since the post-WW2 era the treasury secretary post has been largely ceremonial. The Federal Reserve has run US economic policy, except for the years during which the Bundesbank ran it.
As to how the German central bank came to run American economic policy--Pundita can't remember whether it was the head of the Bundesbank or Germany's finance minister who rang up Paul Volcker (then Chairman of the Federal Reserve) and yelled at him in at least three languages. At the time the American economy and thus the entire world was 48 minutes away from falling off the edge of the planet.
Things were such a mess that the Bundesbank told the Fed, "We're faxing you instructions in simple English. Do everything on the list, don't ask why, just do it."
But if Bono for next World Bank President is a scary thought, promise you won't run screaming if I tell you what's been running the World Bank. Sebastian Mallaby, a journalist who has written about the Bank, spilled the beans. Mallaby recounts that when he was ushered into his first interview with James Wolfensohn, he found Wolfensohn seated with Bono, Swami Agnivesh and the Archbishop of Canterbury.
That's the crew that's been advising the head of the world's most powerful development bank.
At least Bono is well-meaning; he's deeply concerned about the world's very poorest. The same can't be said for George Soros and Mikhail Khordokovsky, who were greatly responsible for the choice of Wolfensohn for Bank president.
As to how that situation came about--Soros's money helped put William Clinton in the White House. Soros had a strong reason for backing Clinton. Two years at Oxford did not teach Clinton how international finance works, much less how development banks work. So with Soros in effect running the State Department and President Clinton hanging on his every advice, the next task for Soros and his oligarch buddies was to find a World Bank president they could work with. Thus it came to pass that Clinton's choice for Bank president was James Wolfensohn, an investment banker.
Oligarchs can clean out investment bankers in six banking days flat. That's why stealing close to a billion dollars from the IMF was a walk in the park for Ukrainian oligarchs. Money says they were caught only because a rival oligarch clan ratted on them.
As to how much the oligarchs have skimmed from the World Bank with Wolfensohn at the helm, we can't find out because the Bank won't allow an independent audit. That's why we need Eliot Spitzer for the next World Bank President beep this is a recording.
Here, readers might ask whether Mallaby's eyeglass prescription might have needed adjustment at the time he met Wolfensohn. It's entirely possible. The man introduced as Shree Swami Agnivesh was probably Khordokovsky in an orange turban. The archbishop was quite probably Soros in purple miter. Wolfensohn and Bono wouldn't have known the difference.
But where there's life and fiscally responsible German bankers there's hope. Pundita has hatched a stopgap solution. Bush should ask Paris Hilton if she wouldn't mind allowing Tinkerbell to fill the post of US Treasury Secretary. Don't laugh before you've considered my reasons:
1. Tinkerbell has a very pleasing yip. She could get a better hearing from Bush during Cabinet meetings than the present treasury secretary.
2. The German finance minister loves Chihuahuas.
3. Tinkerbell's human family knows more about international finance than the last three treasury secretaries put together.
4. Chihuahuas happen to be the best lizard catchers. Handy during economic summits.
5. She would make the cover of newsweeklies more times than all other treasury officials and world leaders combined. Thus, Tinkerbell would popularize the subject of economics and direct a much-needed spotlight on the US Treasury post.
6. She is sane.
Given that the Treasury post is largely ceremonial, it's obvious from the above that Tinkerbell is the very best candidate for the Cabinet slot.
A bonus is that Paris Hilton reports that Tinkerbell is an excellent judge of male character. That trait would be invaluable in helping the Treasury Secretary decide on candidates for the post of World Bank President.
This seems a good place to review Pundita essays that address deeply entrenched problems in the poorest countries and my pick for World Bank president.
Verticalization of corruption
Why widescale poverty is entrenched
Why it's so hard to see the real problems
Democracy Stage Show Part 1
Democracy Stage Show Part 2
Eliot Spitzer for Bank President Part 1
Eliot Spitzer for Bank President, Part 2