Neel Kashkari, mountain man

December 4, 2009
Laura Blumenfeld's tale of Neel Kashkari, mountain man, building a wooden shed in the wilds of Northern California:

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Today’s must-read is Laura Blumenfeld’s tale of Neel Kashkari, mountain man, building a wooden shed in the wilds of Northern California:

Kashkari is recalling his testimony before Congress, while splitting logs to feed the stove for the winter. He is down to his last two chain-sawed trees.

“Members of Congress will tell you they agree with you, and then in public they blast you. I understand their anger, but the playing at politics when so much was at stake –”

Whack. The ax blade flies off its wooden handle.

I’m not sure why exactly Kashkari invited Blumenfeld to hang out with him in the mountains, watching “sweat dot the skin between the hairs on his forearms [as] he does 20 reps of lower-back extensions”, but it’s quite the portrait — especially with the accompanying photo gallery by Linda Davidson — of the Washington technocrat on detox.

Kashkari, like Bernanke, has regrets, but his are small and pretty technical:

He also made mistakes — a punitive interest rate on the American International Group intervention, he says, and a clause allowing unilateral changes to the Capital Purchase Program contracts — decisions executed quickly in the crisis and recognized belatedly by him on the road to Lake Tahoe, while biking up a 9 percent grade, his thoughts grinding round.

What’s more, he’s not out of the rat race, by any means: he’s still wedded to his BlackBerry, complete with Bloomberg alerts; he covets home delivery of the Wall Street Journal; he’s talking about going back to Washington some day; and he’s even talking to Hank Paulson about taking another job in financial services before the year is out. All the log-splitting is essentially an extended vacation, not a true change of lifestyle. After all, he is a Goldman man. Given his extremely valuable experience at Treasury, it would be foolish for him not to monetize that somehow.


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