Assume A Cabinet Position

by John on February 3, 2009

I have not submitted my resume to Obama’s transition team. I like what I’m doing and don’t want to work in Washington. But the administration could still create the post most likely to tempt me: the Cabinet position of Secretary of History. The Secretary would protect American History from the abuse, misuse and ignorance rampant in the private and public sectors. Sort of a Historical Protection Agency (HPA), rather like the EPA.

Take the most pressing current example: Wall Street and Washington denizens who claim that the current financial crisis is unprecedented and requires unimagined rape of the taxpayers purse to avoid fiscal Armageddon. In such cases the Secretary of History would issue a press release containing a historical quote such as the following with the underlined words having been changed to make sure that the reader knows which supposedly unprecedented current situation has already happened:

“The Congress presiding over the dying months of the Bush administration will, we hope, end the fatuous secrecy staining the record of the Troubled Asset Relief Program. In very act of its birth the TARP was struck dumb by the President. For five months it dispensed hundreds of billions of dollars of public money to banks and Wall Street without giving, either to the public or even to Congress itself, a grain of information about the identity of the objects of its bounty.”

It is easy to see how HPA would revitalize the press, nourish academia and, eventually, improve the quality of government. For instance, reporters will know that finding actual versions of the underlined words will put current actions of Congress into historical perspective. More sensible members of the media will consult their local university’s history department, raising the academic’s stock in trade. The media will understand why, when Hoover threw money at banks and financiers, it failed to halt the economic slide which followed the Crash of 29.

Undoubtedly Internet wizards would find the actual source of the quotes and the changed words (Bush/Hoover, TARP/RFC millions/billions and Wall Street/railroads) from an article in the January 1933 issue of Harper’s Magazine, “Inside the R.F.C.: An adventure in secrecy.” Author John T. Flynn documents how the Hoover administration’s Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC) directors came from the same business groups implicated in causing the financial crash. He traces how the public was often completely misled as to the eventual recipient of the federal funds.

Most telling, he shows how much of the money supposedly helping railroads to operate was used to pay their bonded indebtedness, held by Wall Street and the likes of J.P. Morgan & Company.  Given such a historical perspective, one can’t help but ask about former Vice President Dan Quayle and former Bush Treasury Secretary John Snow, both senior executives of Cerberus, a private capital company.  They used massive leverage to purchase Chrysler and a big chunk of GMAC and may well be hoping for similar treatment in the waning days of the Bush administration.

President Hoover, through his representative Eugene Meyer, urged the RFC to provide so much funding to banks that “it would burn a hole in their pockets” and eventually “they would begin to lend it out.” The article then states: “The futility of this plan must now be apparent to everyone.” Sound familiar? By providing such historical context, the HPA will enable the press and voters to ask pointed questions of elected officials. If they had bothered to get a historical perspective, Congresspersons on both sides of the aisle might not have repeated all the RFC’s mistakes and been more judicious in their self-congratulatory comments at the signing ceremony for the first bailout bill.

On another historical note, at the time of the Great Depression, the U.S. was the world’s largest creditor nation. It is now the largest debtor nation, which might make a bit of a difference.

Unfortunately, rather than a Secretary of History, Congress will more likely go on creating more and more czars, which—as we know only by ignoring the history of drug czars and education czars etc.—always solves the problem in Washington. This will undoubtedly lead to the need for a “Czar czar” to oversee all the other czars and make sure they keep the world safe for wealth.  No one is more qualified for the position, based on name, family connections (grandmother to Paris Hilton) and housekeeping skill (“When I get divorced, I always keep the house”) than ZsaZsa Gabor herself, along with her well known catchphrase guaranteed to reassure our elected officials: “Darling…it’s simple”.

As a further note, Ms. Gabor’s vintage VW ads on YouTube show sterling leadership on energy matters.

The Harpers article containing the quotes can be found at:

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