Monday, February 9, 2009

Masters of the Universe: They need a long fall

The Sunday (February 8, 09) New York Times had an (as usual) excellent column by Frank Rich, “Slumdogs Unite!”. It addresses the issues of tax problems, conflict of interest, especially in the financial sector, and confidence of the public in the new Obama appointees. I would add only one thing: when I read the sentence “Most ‘ordinary Americans’ still don’t understand why banks got billions while nothing was done (and still isn’t being done) to bail out those who lost their homes, jobs and retirement savings.”, I initially misread “bail” as “jail”. Maybe that was wishful thinking. I suspect most “ordinary Americans” would think, as do I, that jail would be a good place for these financial “titans”!

Some of this suspicion is highlighted by an even more pointed column by Eugene Robinson, a member of the Washington Post Writers Group, which appeared in my local Kansas City Star on Monday, February 9, 09. Quoting liberally from Sen. Claire McCaskill’s “These people are idiots,” speech (referring to the financial executives who have been paying themselves billions from the federal (read: your money) bailout, Robinson cautions them to “…pay attention to those citizens outside, the ones with the pitchforks and torches.” Going beyond, but not missing the opportunity to discuss at length, the horror people feel at the arrogance and greed of our “masters of the universe”, including the craziness of the average CEO making 344 times what the average worker makes, Robinson adds the following:

“No longer does it make any sense to reward those who work in the financial industry so lavishly compared with the way we compensate those who, say, build tractors or write software or teach our children. Salaries should be reasonable and bonuses – much more modest ones – should be reserved for those who actually, you know, make money. If some of Wall Street’s vaunted “talent” balks and flees, terrific. It was “talent” that got us here.”

Couldn’t say it better. Maybe, if we insist on not jailing them, and not taking away all their money and using it for balancing the national debt and having them live in surplus FEMA trailers (all of which I advocate), they can learn an honest trade doing something truly necessary. Like collecting trash. But maybe they don’t deserve such a good job.

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