Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The un-Gekkos

Bear with me folks, I think there is an idea in here somewhere.   The subject is bailouts and rescues and in particular, the great slosh of money that we fire-hosed into Wall Street in 2008-9.    It's hard to imagine a sustained public policy more broadly unpopular.  "Oh, we needed to do it," say the supporters, "to prevent a worse calamity."  "Balderdash,"  responds the multitude.  "you were just lining the pockets of your Wall Street pals."

Well.  Let's stipulate that the bailout did in fact deliver whole cargo cults of cash to the undeserving swine.  But look at the senders: the odd part is that the principal architects of the bailout are in many ways the most unlikely of frontmen for privilege and gered.  Call them the Un-Gekkos, the last guys you would expect to see out on the beach, shouting that "greed is good."

Start with Ben Bernanke, the druggist's son, whose idea of a big weekend was/is to hunker down with his wife and the Times crossword puzzle.  Whose co-author didn't even know he was a Republican.  Or  Tim Geithner, son of a government/foundation bureaucrat who spent he first 23 years of adulthood in what I guess we call "the public sector."

Hank Paulson, the third of the set, may seem like a tougher case but maybe not really.  Grant that Paulson had grown pig rich from his time at Goldman Sachs.   But he never seemed like the caricature of the rich man.  His hobby is bird watching.  He lectured his colleagues on their tendency to vulgar display.  The women in his life hated W or loved Hillary, or both.

An odd trio to be handing over so much money to the undeserving.  But maybe that's the thing: maybe they were willing to deliver the swag precisely because it didn't bother them all that much.  Granted, they all believed in "the integrity of the market system," somehow defined.  But the seriously rich, the manic rich--in short, the Wall Street potentate rich--are those who can't get to sleep at night if hey think here may be somebody somewhere richer than they are.  It's a category which precisely does not include any of the three great deliverers.  Which might, ironically, have made them just the men for the job.

Addendum:  Mrs. Buce comments--all very well, but do you suppose any of he three ever experienced any visceral sense of the reality of poverty?  Ah, now that is a good question; one which I leave as an exercise to the reader.

1 comment:

The New York Crank said...

While some form of bailout was necessary, what failed to happen was a banking breakup. Chase, Citi, Wells-Foreplay, the rest of 'em needed to be divided into 50 different solvent but completely separate banks, each doing business in a separate state. And only the deposits needed to be saved, not the stockholders' money. (And that would have embroiled the C-suite guys in lawsuits for the rest of their lives.)

Didn't happen. Now we're screwed again. It would have been nice if Geithner et al had empathy, but I'd have settled for foresight.

Very crankily yours,
The New York Crank