Neel Kashkari, 42, named today to be the head of the Minneapolis Federal Reserve, isn’t entirely like past heads of the Fed around these parts.
For one thing, we’re pretty sure he’s the first Minneapolis Fed head to be on People’s list of Sexiest Men Alive.
Banking and monetary policy generally don’t go hand in hand with sexy, but Kashkari slipped in on a bit of a technicality in the mag’s A-to-Z list. They needed someone under “B” and so they went with “Bailout Guru,” because nothing sets the heart to racing like the Troubled Asset Relief Program — TARP — also known as “the bailout.”
Kashkari was one of the people in charge of it under Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson. Both were former execs at Goldman Sachs. Paulson, you may recall, made a list of his own: Time’s 25 People Responsible for the Financial Crisis.
It was messy, complicated, and unpopular.
“Hard choices are easy to make when you really don’t have a choice,” he said in 2008. “When the consequences of inaction are so grave we have to step in.”
He was player in the movie about TARP — Too Big to Fail, based on Aaron Sorkin’s book.
He was played by Ayad Akhtar, who won a Pulitzer for drama in 2013.
In her book, Elizabeth Warren accused Kashkari of lying to her Congressional Oversight Panel about the bailout, a term he hated.
“At the same time we were receiving reassurances from the head of TARP that the big bailouts were finished, his colleagues were down the hall negotiating this gargantuan deal to bail out Citibank for a second time,” Warren said. “I was stunned – and furious. Our panel hadn’t even had our first organizational meeting, but whatever vision I’d had of cooperation and candor had vanished.”
He only worked for a few months when President Barack Obama became president, and — unsurprisingly — went back to Wall St., to help Pimco push into the equities business.
He voted for Obama, but he’s a Republican, although he described himself as a “different” kind of Republican who supports same-sex marriage and abortion rights.
That didn’t help him much when he ran against Jerry Brown for governor of California.
Rolling Stone political writer Matt Taibbi called it “a gift from the blogging gods.”
Kashkari was not just a former Goldman banker handed a high government post – he was a former Goldman banker handed a high government post by a former Goldman banker, in this case former Goldman CEO and then-Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson.
Neel was also the human parallel to the original TARP proposal written by Paulson, which was famously just three pages long.
Paulson’s TARP proposal was essentially the last, unaired episode of Beavis and Butthead, with the three pages of script just containing a single scene in which Butthead walks into the U.S. Senate and says, “Can you, uh, like, give us 700 billion dollars? Uh-huh-huh.”
Kashkari spent a week posing as a homeless person during the campaign to try to find a job.
But it didn’t make much difference.
He lost. He lost big.
But not before turning in one of the more controversial political ads of 2014.
He followed that up with one designed to show he really wasn’t that different.
He reportedly dropped $2 million of his own money on that race.
“The Minneapolis Fed has built a strong reputation for economic research and thought leadership as well as excellence in Bank operations. I am delighted that I will be working with the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis team to build on the Bank’s many achievements,” he said in the press release announcing his appointment today.
Most people don’t know the name of the boss of the Minneapolis Fed. It’s a safe bet they’re going to know Kashkari’s.