Bank Bailout Architect Goes Homeless For a Week and Draws a Really Dumb Conclusion

The architect of the 2008 bank bailout and gubernatorial candidate says the homeless don't need welfare, but jobs. Wall Street execs, though, are a different story.
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The architect of the 2008 bank bailout and gubernatorial candidate says the homeless don't need welfare, but jobs. Wall Street execs, though, are a different story.
Kashkari

Today in irony, we bring you this nugget from millionaire Republican, former Goldman Sachs executive, and $700 billion bank bailer-outer Neel Kashkari, who's challenging California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) in November. In Thursday's Wall Street Journal, Kashkari described in an op-ed how he went homeless in Fresno for a week armed with nothing but $40, a backpack, a change of clothes, and a toothbrush.

After a week of unsuccessfully looking for a job, Kashkari concludes that what's needed isn't economic assistance for the poor, but -- and get this -- more jobs:

"I walked for hours and hours in search of a job, giving me a lot of time to think. Five days into my search, hungry, tired and hot, I asked myself: What would solve my problems? Food stamps? Welfare? An increased minimum wage?

"No. I needed a job. Period."

It's hard to wrap your head around the logic Kashkari's employing here. He couldn't find a job as a homeless person. So therefore, he doesn't need food stamps or welfare, but a job. Yet if he's homeless and can't find a job, he definitely could use food stamps and welfare. But Kashkari doesn't need a job because after this publicity gimmick ended, he got to return to not being homeless and living well enough where he can campaign for governor full-time.

This is one of the favorite pastimes of Republicans: looking out onto the streets of America and concluding, with complete earnestness, that what the poor need isn't government assistance, but a job.

But a job is only nice work if you can get it. If you haven't worked in a long time, or have mental issues, or a criminal history, or are just down on your luck, sometimes your most pressing need isn't a job, but instead your next meal. And if you're lucky, that next meal -- wherever it might come from -- will only have to be for one.

It's truly strange that Kashkari -- an ex-Goldman exec who followed his CEO Hank Paulson to the U.S. Treasury Department and oversaw the 2008 Troubled Asset Relief Program bailout -- would have a new-found interest in the plight of the impoverished and homeless. That's because he's advocated cuts to Social Security and Medicare and denounced Obamacare, which enrolled more than 8 million people, including 3.4 million in the state in which he's running for governor. Were it up to Kashkari, these people would have never been enrolled in the first place. Why? Because people don't need handouts, they need jobs!

It should also be pointed out that during the bailout, Kashkari somehow allowed executives at AIG, who were too clueless to wonder why every major bank was coming to them for credit default swaps to hedge their holdings of mortgage-backed securities, to give themselves $503 million in bonuses. Those executive already had jobs, so they didn't need jobs, but nonetheless got an obscene amount of "welfare" courtesy of American taxpayers.

To recap Neel Kashkari's position on welfare: If you are a major financial institution that torpedoed the economy, or an incompetent executive who torpedoed the economy, you're entitled to government assistance.

However, if you're a homeless person, whose problems don't include paying counterparties billions of dollars, or buying a second house, then government assistance isn't for you. What you need is a job.

And if that job is good enough and you become well off enough, only then can you qualify for welfare.