Economy & Budget

What about Lew? Five reasons to stop his confirmation

What about Lew? Five reasons to stop his confirmation

It’s difficult for me to understand why Jack Lew, the White House Chief of Staff and President Barack Obama’s nominee for Treasury Secretary, is having an easier time navigating the nomination process than Chuck Hagel or John Brennan – or any nominee in recent memory, actually.

This week, Lew faced some questions from the Senate Finance Committee this week on array of economic problems – some of which, incidentally, he had a hand in creating – but there were few surprises and most expect the two-time director of the Office of Management and Budget to be confirmed. Other than Jeff Sessions, who wrote a Dear Colleague letter this week laying out the case against Lew, few Republicans seem to be prepared to stop Lew.

Ideologically speaking, Lew is a fine fit for the administration; the sort of man who talks about government budgets — “When it’s woven together, the picture amounts to our hopes and dreams of a nation” – as an average American might talk about his faith. His ideology might be a grave problem for you and me, but it’s not a good enough a reason to sink a confirmation.

And Lew may have invested $56,000 in a Citigroup venture-capital fund registered in a Cayman Islands building that Obama referred to as “the largest tax scam in the world”; and sure Lew might have told the Senate Finance Committee that sequester cuts “would impose self-inflicted wounds to the recovery and put far too many jobs and businesses at risk” even though he was the one who first brought the idea to the negotiating table, but crass hypocrisy is probably not enough to stop a nomination, either.

But there five reasons, at least, why Lew should be disqualified.

One: Lew has no compunction about misleading you.

Lew, a “master” of budgets and all things finance according to the president, has on several occasions lied to the American people to assist the president politically. Not average misrepresentations or partisan evasions, but blatant lies.

When asked on NBC’s “Meet the Press” in early 2012 how many days it had been since Senate Democrats passed a budget — over a thousand days for anyone counting at the time – Lew said this: “One of the things about the United States Senate that I think the American people have realized is that it takes 60, not 50, votes to pass something.”

It doesn’t take 60 votes, as Lew, a man Obama says has “deep and devout faith,” knows well. The 60-vote threshold doesn’t come into play on budgets.

Lew then repeated this contention on CNN’s “State of the Union,” saying: “But we also need to be honest. You can’t pass a budget in the Senate of the United States without 60 votes and you can’t get 60 votes without bipartisan support. So unless Republicans are willing to work with Democrats in the Senate, Harry Reid is not going to be able to get a budget passed.” We need to be honest? If Lew is unable to understand basic procedure he has no business in the cabinet, and if he does comprehend, then Senate has no business confirming a political so willing to mislead the American people to the Treasury.

Two: Lew personally benefited from the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression.

No, it’s not illegal, but Lew pocketed a $940,000 bonus from Citigroup in early 2009, just as the bank was receiving $45 billion from taxpayers. In other words, Obama has nominated one of the very bloodsuckers he has been warning America about for four years. Lew – who took a two-year break from a lifetime of living off taxpayers — was there for a handout. He was chief operating officer of a $54 billion hedge fund and private equity division that lost nearly $500 million in one quarter betting against the housing market — or as Joe Biden might say, betting against America.

If we accept the president’s narrative about the recession, doesn’t the Senate have a duty to stop the nomination of a man who profited from the suffering of the American middle class?

Three: He’s not qualified.

Then again, Lew claims he had nothing to do with the investments at Citi, explaining to the committee that the work he did in 2008 “was running the business of the business in a year when the financial products of the firm were not doing well. I was not in the business of making investment decisions. I was certainly aware of things that were going on, but I wasn’t designing (investments) and I wasn’t opining on them.”

If all this is true, and Lew was no more than a corporate pencil pusher with negligible comprehension of the investment world, what qualifications does he have to be Secretary of the Treasury? During his last Senate hearing, Lew actually told member that he didn’t consider himself an expert of the financial sector.

Real-world experience doesn’t make a successful Treasury Secretary, of course, but surely that sort of experience should be a factor in the nomination process. Timothy Geithner was president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Henry Paulson was Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Goldman Sachs. John Snow was CEO of CSX Corp.. Paul O’Neill, CEO of Alcoa and chairman of the RAND Corporation. Jack Lew is a political operative that created a few budgets even Democrats wouldn’t vote for … which brings me to this point:

Four: His track record stinks.

In February 2011, Lew, then director of Office of Management and Budget, told CNN: “Our budget will get us, over the next several years, to the point where we can look the American people in the eye and say we’re not adding to the debt anymore; we’re spending money that we have each year, and then we can work on bringing down our national debt.”

Actually that plan, according to Lew’s own numbers, would have added $13 trillion to the debt. And here are the actually yearly deficits of the Obama budgets: 2010 it was $1.293 trillion and in 2011 it was $1.645 trillion and in 2012, $1.101 trillion. The last time Jack Lew wrote a budget the Congressional Budget office found that it would add $6.4 trillion in deficits. Not a single senator voted for the Lew budgets.

Five: He might have broken the law.

Every year that the Medicare Trustees release a warning that the program’s in financial trouble, the president is supposed to issue a legislative proposal telling congress how it plans to resolve funding issues. For four years we’ve had these warnings and for four years the Obama administration has failed to comply with Medicare law. For two of those years, Lew was heading up the Office of Management and Budget and he was responsible to submit those proposals.

Any one of those reasons should be enough to stop this nomination. The question is: will Republicans be willing to expend us much capital doing so as they have for other nominee?

Follow David @davidharsanyi.

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