Robert Rubin: Everything That Is Good & Bad In America

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By Bill Sardi

Described as being "wise," "thoughtful," "selfless," and a mentor by those who worked close to him, William D Cohan's BusinessWeek just-published article RETHINKING ROBERT RUBIN parts the clouds and pens a more realistic biography of this living icon of American politics and finance.

Rubin, now age 74, economic adviser in the Clinton Cabinet, former head of the US Treasury Department, having spent 26 years at Goldman Sachs and then later in an executive position at CITIGROUP and also as co-chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations, is described by Cohan this way:  

"Nobody on this planet represents more vividly the scam of the banking industry," says Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of The Black Swan. "He made $120 million from Citibank, which was technically insolvent. And now we, the taxpayers, are paying for it."  

Rubin was paid $126 million, essentially with public money, while being characterized as "selfless."  

It is this self-ingratiation and cult of insider elites that bothers me as I follow Rubin's footsteps as told by author Cohan.  There are no ethics.  There is no accountability, just whatever the elites define for themselves as moral or even legal.  

Rubin doesn't appear to have any public regrets.  "Rubin hasn't looked back, at least not publicly," Cohan says.   Rubin, referring to the bailout at CITIGROUP says: ""I don't feel responsible."  Well then, who is?  Regarding his directives that bailed out CITIGROUP he says:  ""I'd do it again."  A better description of Rubin might be unashamed.

Americans get a view of the endless revolving doors in Washington DC as Rubin leaves the Treasury Dept. for a $15-million-a-year stint at CITIGROUP -- a payoff for favors to the banking industry?

On a personal level, he stepped out on his marriage in a romance with Iris Mack, a black-American Harvard graduate.  Mack says: ""The more I talked to him, I realized he was a good liar."

Author Cohan ends his biting article by describing the duplicitous life of Robert Rubin.  Cohan says: 

They'll act selfishly and selflesslyThey'll advance whole societies and their own interests, and their paradoxes will be endlessly debated. "This is a guy who is as controlled as any human being I know," says Sandy Lewis, who as an arbitrageur worked with Rubin at Goldman Sachs. "He's pleasant company. He's compulsively dishonest in a certain way, and compulsively honest in other ways."

But let me ask, if you spent half of your life giving money to the poor, and the other half robbing banks, how should you be described on your epitaph?

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