Monday, September 20, 2010

The Fighter Pilots Of Capitalism

Apparently the “fighter pilots of capitalism” feel they should be rewarded with fat bonuses for crashing billion dollar jets. And they think it’s totally unfair that the rest of us rubes in flyover country don’t agree with them.

That’s the general viewpoint of the bankers and Wall Street casino jockeys who vent a little spleen at Middle America in this piece (and a big tip of the hat to John Cole at Balloon Juice.) While the Teanut brigade likes to accuse Liberal Hollywood Elites of mocking them and treating them and all they value with disrespect, it’s their capitalist brothers in arms who seem to be looking down their noses at Real America® these days. For example:
“No offense to Middle America, but if someone went to Columbia or Wharton, [even if] their company is a fumbling, mismanaged bank, why should they all of a sudden be paid the same as the guy down the block who delivers restaurant supplies for Sysco out of a huge, shiny truck?” e-mails an irate Citigroup executive to a colleague.

Welcome to the meritocracy! Isn’t class warfare fun?

Here’s another one:

“We’re in a hypercapitalistic society. No one complains when Julia Roberts pulls down $25 million per movie or A-Rod has a $300 million guarantee. We have ex-presidents who cash in on their presidencies. Our whole moral compass has shifted about what’s acceptable or not acceptable. Honestly, you can pick on Wall Street all you want, I don’t think it’s fair. It’s fair to say you ran your companies into the ground, your risk management is flawed—that is perfectly legitimate. You can lay criticism on GM or others. But I don’t think it’s fair to say Wall Street is paid too much.”

Well, actually, people do complain about movie star and athletes' salaries, all the time. And there are also salary caps in pro sports, and yada yada. But the big answer, as author Gabriel Sherman points out, is if Julia Roberts makes a dud movie, the entire economy doesn’t come crashing down. And let me add: Julia Roberts does not make $25 million a picture, not even close, in fact after after “Duplicity” failed, she was reportedly forced to accept $10 million to make “Eat Pray Love,” also a dud, and one can imagine her asking price will continue to fall until she hits box office gold again. And let's remember all of the endorsement deals Tiger Woods lost when he turned out to have a little problem with his zipper. Yet this is the very “free hand of the market” salary deal the banksters think they are too good to accept. Think about it, Tea People: even free market capitalists don't believe in the free hand of the market! How hilarious is that?

Here's another one:

To Wall Street people who have grown up in the bubble, the meaning of the crisis is only slowly sinking in. They can’t yet grasp the idea of a life lived on less. “Without exception, Wall Street guys have gotten accustomed to not being stuck in the city in August. So it becomes a right to have a summer home within an hour or two commute from Manhattan,” says the Goldman vet. “There’s a cost structure of going with your family on summer vacation that’s not optional. There’s a cost structure of spending $40,000 to send your kids to private school that is not optional. There’s a sense of entitlement, that you need that amount of money just to live, that’s not optional.”

So, these are the people the GOP wants to hand your Social Security over to. Talk about needing a reality check! The problem is one which Brad DeLong explained so beautifully over the weekend. We live in a world of haves and a growing number of have-nots. The have-nots do not have summer homes in the Hamptons and cannot afford to send their kids to private school and do not have housekeepers and personal trainers and aestheticians and country club dues and spring break trips to the Caribbean and a highly-paid accountant to do their taxes and a lawyer to handle their legal troubles. These may feel like the necessities of life for the family of a Wall Street banker but they are not, in fact, the necessities of life in general. You can do your own taxes and clean your own house and send your kids to public school.

And let me add: No one wants to begrudge anyone these things. If you can afford them, great! But when your entire industry only survived because of taxpayer assistance, don’t be surprised to learn your sense of entitlement about such things rubs taxpayers the wrong way. If the rest of the country must tighten its belt, then you can do your part too, buddy. You know. For the duration, and all.

I'm reminded that once upon a time Americans pulled together to do the hard things. Those days, sadly, are gone.

Despite what the National Bureau of Economic Research may say, our economy is not out of the woods yet. And while the banksters are stunned anyone would want to make their casino abide by some rather modest house rules, the rest of the nation is dealing with some much more sobering issues. There are people who have been out of work for over a year now, thanks to you. They aren’t worried about where they’ll “summer,” they are worried about where they’ll live. And a lot of those people went to college, too, Mr. Citibank Executive.

So yeah, people are still pissed, and they don't want to hear you whining about how hard you have it because I guarantee you that far more people have it far worse and they are just as worthy as you. So if you can't "suck it in and cope," then here's another idea: