Why New York, the USA, and the world needs him back
by Bruce Fisher
Everything you need to know about a genuine American hero named Eliot Spitzer, New York’s former governor, is on display in the Oscar-winning documentary “Inside Job.” The whole story, with not a single rotten secret of his Icarus-like pride and subsequent fall, is featured in Charles Ferguson’s masterful movie, but so is the rest of the recent history of Wall Street, too. “Inside Job” is a shocking and shockingly true relation of the mendacity, the arrogance, and the corruption that led, almost five years ago, to the demise of the Lehman Brothers investment bank, which had speculated heavily in the same kind of junk securities that Buffalo’s own M & T Bank has been sued for peddling. The collaterized debt obligations that Spitzer complained about, and the practice of bundling up sign-and-scoot mortgages (issued to people who barely qualify to pay rent) into these so-called “derivative” securities, were Spitzer targets. When Lehman collapsed, it was because the market had discovered that this junk was essentially worthless, and the whole house of cards collapsed, throwing tens of millions of people out of work, adding trillions to the debt load of the United States, and institutionalizing a sneering contempt for law in the lawless canyons of Wall Street when not only George W. Bush but also Barack H. Obama bailed these speculators out.
Spitzer, should he actually make it on the ballot by late tonight, is a candidate for Comptroller of New York City, a job that he should be given by acclamation, but of course that’s now how voting works. There’s a good guy named Scott Stringer already running for the job. Life isn’t fair. He needs set his politician ego aside, thank the 100,000 voters who signed his petitions, and then he needs to step aside and let the angry, contrite, impassioned forensic hurricane Eliot Spitzer, the scourge of the lawless, the relentless, fearless, inspiringly un-intimidatable berserker come smashing back, because mere competence is no threat to the forces that have cowed US Attorney General Eric Holder and the rest of the compromised, intimidated, colluding Casper Milquetoasts of Justice, the SEC, the CFTC, and the other non-regulating regulators.
Not just New York City, but the country needs for for Spitzer to repeat his former role as “sheriff of Wall Street.” But the office of City Comptroller has neither the staff resources nor the inherent power of the office of New York State Attorney General, the job Spitzer held before being elected Governor in 2006. At least, though, unlike the comptroller of Buffalo or of any other city or county in this state, New York City’s Comptroller is the trustee of a huge public-employee pension fund.
And therein lies the Spitzer opportunity, or rather, the whole rationale to hire Spitzer for that job. The New York City Comptroller gets to supervise five huge public-employee pension funds: the general City employees fund, two school-employee funds, and the police and fire funds, totalling about $140 billion. When the corrupt political thug Alan Hevesi monkeyed around as State Comptroller, abusing his power as the sole trustee of the State employee pension fund, his buddies got rich but his constituents (including New York State taxpayers) got screwed. Spitzer, being that he is not only personally wealthy but also chastened, will not only never be a Hevesi; he’ll be something more like an Eliott Ness. In this case, it doesn’t hurt that he may also be bent on comeuppance for the financial-industry people who led him, all by himself, to suddenly let his penis do the thinking.
The egregious hacks of the Wall Street Journal editorial page are already whining about him. Doubtless, we shall soon hear anti-Spitzer cant from the egregious Glenn Hubbard, who is still, somehow, despite the revelations in “Inside Job” of his analysis-for-hire “scholarship,” the dean of the Columbia University business school. I don’t know much about Scott Stringer, but I know who Eliot Spitzer’s enemies are, and this is the clearest possible case of the enemy of our enemies being our best posssible friend.