Volker: “We’re in a hell of a mess in every direction”

Via the NYT comes Paul Volker:

“We’re in a hell of a mess in every direction,” he said.

“And it’s really bad. At least the military still has all the respect. But I don’t know, how can you run a democracy when nobody believes in the leadership of the country?”

…“There is no force on earth that can stand up effectively, year after year, against the thousands of individuals and hundreds of millions of dollars in the Washington swamp aimed at influencing the legislative and electoral process,” he wrote in the book.

…The memoir is at times a dishy tale of Mr. Volcker’s years in Washington. For example, while President Trump has complained in recent months about the Fed’s plan to raise interest rates, he isn’t the first to try to influence the independent Federal Reserve. Mr. Volcker recounts being summoned to meet with President Ronald Reagan and his chief of staff, James Baker, in the president’s library next to the Oval Office in 1984.

Reagan “didn’t say a word,” Mr. Volcker wrote. “Instead Baker delivered a message: ‘The president is ordering you not to raise interest rates before the election.’” Mr. Volcker wasn’t planning to raise rates at the time.

“I was stunned,” he wrote. “I later surmised that the library location had been chosen because, unlike the Oval Office, it probably lacked a taping system.”

…“The central issue is we’re developing into a plutocracy,” he told me. “We’ve got an enormous number of enormously rich people that have convinced themselves that they’re rich because they’re smart and constructive. And they don’t like government, and they don’t like to pay taxes.”

Washington, when he arrived, “was a city filled with bureaucrats,” he said. “It didn’t make them bad.” At the time, civil servants — like his father, the township manager of Teaneck, N.J. — were respected. “I grew up in a world in which good government was a good term,” he said.

But things have changed. Today, he said, Washington is overrun by lobbyists and think tanks. Mr. Volcker, who started a nonprofit to improve education for public service, contends that our educational system has been perverted by money.

Schools like the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton, he said, have failed to educate a new generation of civil servants. He said they no longer taught governing but policy — a shift that he contended allowed them to hold forums and discussions with generals and under secretaries.

“Rich guys,” he said, “like to go.” He called it “hobnobbing wholesale.”

“They can argue war and peace and poverty and everything else,” he said. “But when you go to a school of public policy, you’re not learning how to run the goddamn government. You’re learning how to debate political issues.”

And there you have it.

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