The Jacobin headline looked ominous and it instantly drew my attention-- and concern: An Army of Pete Buttigiegs. Yecchhhh. Short version: "McKinsey consultants have packaged capitalism for decades, offering a glimpse into the moral compass of the ruling class." Biden made several really bad mistakes in filling his cabinet... and the two worst are both working on his infrastructure bill: Wall Street shill Gina Raimondo and Wall Street shill Mayo Pete. Is it any wonder the project is floundering?
Aside from being a Wall Street shill, Mayo Pete is something much worse: a McKinsey-bot. "McKinsey," wrote Nicole Aschoff, "is best known for helping institutions-- from pharmaceutical companies to government agencies-- find value, often through cost cuts. As Duff McDonald, author of The Firm: The Story of McKinsey and Its Secret Influence on American Business, contends, 'McKinsey has been the impetus for more layoffs than any other entity in corporate history.' The Firm is about much more than slashing jobs, however. As C. Wright Mills wrote in The Power Elite, 'The power elite are not solitary rulers. Advisers and consultants, spokesmen and opinion-makers are often the captains of their higher thought and decisions.' McKinsey is a captain of ideas, inculcating corporations and governments with its vision of how organizations should be run. The role of ideas in capitalism is often glossed over. The behaviors, strategies, priorities, and assumptions of corporate leaders are often assumed to be the rational by-products of profit-seeking impulses-- 'best practices' arising in response to market signals. There is obviously some truth to this. But institutions such as corporations and government agencies are, for better and for worse, also highly influenced by the prevailing capitalist zeitgeist-- a zeitgeist that McKinsey has played a key role in formulating over the decades."
These days, the capitalist zeitgeist is shifting once again. The belief that maximizing shareholder value would bring the greatest rewards for individuals and communities took a beating after the 2008 financial crisis. But McKinsey is already ahead of the curve, pivoting to the wonders of data analytics and artificial intelligence. Its website emphasizes The Firm’s expertise in “data translation,” helping companies use algorithms and machine learning to boost revenues and growth.
While McKinsey is often associated with corporations, from the very beginning, its advice has been eagerly sought by political leaders. At the same time that it was helping executives manage multidivisional firms in the 1950s and ’60s, it was developing lucrative relationships with government agencies. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, for example, hired the firm in 1952 to advise him on filling executive branch positions. Dozens of government agencies, from the Department of Defense to NASA, hired McKinsey consultants to streamline workflow and develop their organizations.
...Today, public sector consulting is a $9 billion industry in North America. McKinsey has raked in $20 million from the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency alone in recent years. Former President Barack Obama hired McKinsey to help ICE streamline deportations, and Donald Trump kept the company on, expanding its role to find ways to cut costs in his crackdown on illegal immigration. According to a ProPublica investigation, McKinsey’s recommendations for ICE included spending less money and food, medical care, and supervision for detainees.
...Instead of surefire plans for success, McKinsey’s prestige, burnished by its pipeline to graduates from Harvard Business School and other elite institutions, gives companies cover to implement dramatic restructuring plans. Calling up McKinsey lets executives off the hook for unpopular decisions, such as IBM’s mass layoffs and elimination of lifetime employment, which devastated the surrounding community in Upstate New York.
McKinsey has actually given a lot of bad advice over the years... AT&T, General Motors, and Swissair crashed and burned after hiring the consulting firm, and who can forget Enron? CEO Jeffrey Skilling, a former McKinsey consultant, brought the consulting firm in on an almost continuous basis in the years leading up to the energy company’s epic collapse in 2001 and Skilling’s twelve-year imprisonment for nineteen counts of fraud, insider trading, and criminal conspiracy.
The Firm denies any wrongdoing in the Enron case, but it’s difficult to say what its role was in the scandalous mismanagement and greed displayed by Skilling and his compatriots. The difficulty is due in part to McKinsey’s intense secrecy about its activities. It is not publicly traded, it doesn’t divulge how much its partners earn, and it doesn’t say who its clients are. Clarity comes only when people go digging, and when they do, the results are often unsettling.
...[T]here seem to be plenty of consultants at McKinsey who have no problem working for companies and politicians that put money and power above all else-- and McKinsey helps them get more money and power. Just look at revelations about The Firm’s connection to Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin. A recent Massachusetts lawsuit argued that McKinsey was a central player in the state’s opioid epidemic, coaching Purdue on “how to ‘turbocharge’ sales of OxyContin, [and] how to counter efforts by drug enforcement agents to reduce opioid use.” McKinsey was also, according to the lawsuit, “part of a team that looked at how ‘to counter the emotional messages from mothers with teenagers that overdosed’ on the drug.”
McKinsey has refused to admit guilt in its dealings with Purdue and other pharmaceutical companies, but in February, it agreed to a $574 million settlement with the attorneys general of every US state except Nevada to fund opioid treatment and recovery programs. The Firm’s contribution to an epidemic that has killed nearly a quarter of a million Americans, however, didn’t stop governments around the globe from enlisting its help in managing the coronavirus pandemic. In the United States alone, state and federal agencies awarded the company more than $100 million in COVID-19 contracts. America’s ruling class may express occasional dismay at McKinsey’s misdeeds, but at the end of the day, the consulting firm’s growing list of crimes and misdemeanors elicits little more than headlines and token gestures. Indeed, as former global managing partner Kevin Sneader, who was ousted early this year by the company’s senior partners for his apparently overzealous reform efforts, boasted: 2020 was McKinsey’s “best recruiting year ever.”
Late this afternoon, Tal Axelrod reported that a bipartisan quartet of conservative senators-- Dems Tom Carper (DE) and Ben Cardin (MD) and Republicans Shelley Moore Capito (WV) and Kevin Cramer (ND)-- moved to undercut the White House infrastructure plan by announcing a surface transportation reauthorization bill that will be marked up by the Environment and Public Works Committee on Wednesday. It would establish new baseline funding of $303.5 billion for Department of Transportation programs to support highways, roads and bridges. "The bill’s introduction and markup," wrote Axelrod, "come as Democrats, along with the White House, negotiate with Republicans on a broader infrastructure package. Thus far, talks have failed to produce a breakthrough."
The Republicans are working as hard as they can to torpedo Biden's already pre-compromised and very modest infrastructure proposal. The real sticking point for the Senate Republicans is Biden's insistence it be paid for-- and paid for by a more equitable tax structure that slightly-- way too slightly-- increases taxes on corporate profits and wealthy Americans. Conservatives want to further burden the working and middle class with a combination of sales taxes, a VAT, user fees and more borrowing from China.
There are only two ways around this:
1- abolish the filibuster
2- pass it through reconciliation.
Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema are the roadblocks.