Public Stocks

Josh Marshall has a point —

This seems like just another example of perverse outcomes from the ‘worst of both worlds’ approach we’re taking to the whole finance industry bailout — keep the same people in charge of the institutions, keep effectively insolvent institutions afloat, but throw a lot of federal dollars in their direction and put in place fairly draconian tax provisions for money that’s spent in ways we find either wasteful or offensive.

stockWell, yes, probably. People are enraged, and their rage is focused on only a small number of those who are responsible for what’s gone wrong. Indeed, some of the people being penalized probably were not involved personally.

On the other hand, sometimes we human have to act our what we feel. This is why there are rituals, religious and otherwise. An individual may feel helpless, but if he can get together with a lot of other people to make a display of strength, he feels empowered. This is true even if the display of strength is just theater, just ritual. Right now, I think many Americans feel a need for a punishment ritual. The people who mishandled the financial sector may never see a day in prison, or in the stocks, or experience any sort of genuine deprivation. But a public shaming of somebody would at least make us feel better.

On the other hand, the public shaming shouldn’t be policy. Policy needs to be a genuine remedy, not a ritual. Whether they deserve to be punished or not, punishing the AIG bonus babies isn’t going to solve anything.

On the third hand — appearances matter. This is what Eugene Robinson wrote about today.

There has been a steady flow of news indicating that Wall Street doesn’t realize that the Era of Excess is over, the latest coming yesterday with a Bloomberg News report that the CEO of troubled Citigroup, Vikram Pandit, plans to spend about $10 million redecorating the firm’s executive offices. I know that the company has made economies and that Pandit is working for $1 a year. I just think that after accepting $45 billion in bailout money, I’d cancel any improvement project that couldn’t be accomplished with a trip to Home Depot.

It’s as if we’re dealing with a puppy who will not stop making puddles on the kitchen floor. Whenever I hear of another Wall Street exec who doesn’t “get it,” I want to whack him with a rolled up newspaper. (I wouldn’t do that to a puppy, mind you.)

Anyway, back to what Josh was saying — I agree with Charlie Cray that we should stop messing around with the bozos who caused the problem, and instead “put AIG into full receivership and break it up.” That’ll learn ’em. See also Simon Johnson and James Kwak, “Off With the Bankers,” in the New York Times.

20 thoughts on “Public Stocks

  1. Whenever I hear of another Wall Street exec who doesn’t “get it,” I want to whack him with a rolled up newspaper. (I wouldn’t do that to a puppy, mind you.)
    Actually, rolled up newspapers are great tools for puppies and dogs and not meant to hurt. They make a loud noise when you thwack near the dog. After awhile, it takes just raising the newspaper for the puppy to cease and desist. You don’t want to do that to a gun dog, however, because they need to like loud noises. For them, a spray bottle of water is good.

    Also, the best way to house break a puppy is to catch him mid stream and carry him outdoors. Then praise him when he completes the process. Whacking after the fact doesn’t help the dog make a connection.

    Either way, the analogy is that there are rules for puppies and bank executives to follow in order for them to be accepted into the family group. The bankers are dumber than puppies.

  2. Somebody said that the mad rule of money and materialism as the measure of all things corrodes our souls: Somebody else said the influx of wealth weakens our fiber and fosters corruption and luxury.

    I think it’s not a stretch to apply those observations to what is blatantly evident among those who have amassed great wealth in this country.

  3. Can’t we take the abasement (almost humiliation) of Jim Cramer on TDS as a surrogate shaming of all of the Masters of the Universe? I get the need for it, I just think maybe we should move on.

  4. sThe key word here is “entitlement”. Rich pricks like Bernie Madoff feel like they are entitled to fly on private jets and entitled to lived in gated communities or in apartment buildings with doormen and entitled to multi-million dollar bonuses, even when they fuck up the whole company or whole economy.

    Bigots like to bitch about the poor and entitlements. In reality it is the wealthy and their entitlements that really cost us

  5. All of this would be helped if we had a real plan to close down and restructure these “too big to fail” institutions. I heard Obama speak (via a TV in an airport) in the Costa Mesa town hall about the difference between an FDIC bailout of a small community bank, versus the way the big banks are being dealt with. There was a lot of noise in the airport, but his explanation wasn’t convincing to me.

    Atrios highlighted a report a few days ago about AIG – if this report is accurate, a hidden problem with AIG is reinsurance, and the fact that its many insurance subsidiaries reinsure each other, thus dragging down the parent company when reinsurance fails. It’s reminisicent of how Enron was structured with a plethora of shell companies that made the parent look good, for awhile.

  6. I am just wondering why the (2nd) Glass-Steagall Act has not been reinstated. Or, even better, why its repeal (the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999 – yes that was Phil Gramm) has not been nullified. Granted, I have been disconnected from my news sources recently, but I have not even seen a reference to the Act of late.

    Lots of chasing general regulatory iniquities and a culture of greed, etc., but no mention of this??? I would not mind seeing Phil Gramm in the stocks in a public square…

  7. If I’m ever at a soup kitchen, I want to see these MFer’s right there in line with me. And if they’re not, I’m going to hope that they’re part of the soup.
    And I think we should look into creating a new brand of Soylent Green Cracker’s – The Executive Blend. The motto could be: “They taste richer!”

  8. As usual, comments on the Mahablog are top-notch. Moonbat and Cabin have it right: Companies within companies, absence of regulation, no Glass-Steagall. Even if it recovers it is all bound to cyclically collapse again if no permanent restructuring is put into place.

    But there is still the right-wing noise machine – the Limbaughs and Kudlows – braying non-stop day after day. They do not want the status quo tampered with.

  9. C U N D Gulag – When they build a monument to you, that can be carved in marble. Priceless.

  10. I watched Obama on Jay Leno last night and his discussion on the matter was to correct what went wrong and make sure it doesn’t happen again. That is his goal. I think that he will do that. It’s just that everyone seems to think he has to perform miracles in fewer days than Jesus did. I think we are lucky to have him for President right now.

    However, I am all for shaming the people who got those bonuses and other greedy Wall Streeters like Pandit. My idea is to go back to the days when the most wanted criminals would have their names and faces up in the post office. I thought names and pictures of all these people who put us in this financial debacle should be published on the front page of all newspapers still in print. As for Pandit, I don’t think any money should be spent on remodeling of any kind whether at Home Depot or Goodwill. Learning to live with what you have and appreciate what you have is a concept all these guys need to understand.

  11. I don’t mean to change the tenor of the conversation, but I just found out that my parent’s friend’s daughter just died. They had all been in Concentration and Relocation Camp’s in the ’40’s and early ’50’s, before coming to America. She was 53, blind, and mentally challenged due to a brain tumor when she was 8, but I loved her and thought of her often in my life.
    She was the person who probably most made me into a Liberal. Her name was Tanya. We are roughly the same age. I knew her a little as a child, but not given much exposure to her, or we didn’t connect for some reason.
    She came with her parent’s to our house when I was about 12 or 13. I kind of got a crush on her. She wasn’t pretty, but she had a great soul. And we got along great. Later, after they left, I watched the Jerry Lewis Telethon. And I cried in my room for hour’s. Thinking of her, and the children that Jerry was trying to help, probably changed my life. Life seemed unfair, and I wondered why we couldn’t strive to make it more fair.
    One of my best friends in life, actually, since about that time, was legally blind and, thus, visually handicapped. Another was black. And I took a lot of shit from other classmates for befriending them. But there was a group of us who remain friends to this day because of those days of ridicule and stupidity. They’re still my best friends. And doing very well – one as a Psychiatric Social Worker in NY City, the other as a computer progammer.
    I admired her strength through the years as she tried, but failed, to navigate life. I only saw her a few more times in my life because of her disability.
    She appently died of pneumonia. Everyone worried that after her parent’s passed away her older sister would have to look after her. I’m sure that right now, her sister wishes that that were the case.
    It’s a tragic end to a life that was, in the circumstances, well lived. But, if we were a society that cared and nurtured people and helped people with disabilities, she could have brought more to the world.
    She brought enough to me. I’ll spend the next few days crying. Why? Because I didn’t get to know her better…

  12. If I’m ever at a soup kitchen, I want to see these MFer’s right there in line with me. And if they’re not, I’m going to hope that they’re part of the soup.

    As a metaphor, at least, that’s what I hope our country feels–and has the sense to act upon.

  13. Oh, I just learned, and I’m ‘happy’ to inform everyone that some health insurance company saved some money by releasing Tanya from the Hospital. Apparently, she was released too early (she was in for bronchial symptoms) and sent to her nursing home, which had heating problems. And that may have have led to pneumonia, which killed her.
    Well, I’m sure the savings were passed onto the shareholder’s.
    There are just some days when I truly hate this fucking country. This is one of them.

  14. cu – I’m glad I logged in tonight to read of your friend’s passing. Nursing homes are potential deathtraps – you really have to be on your toes for anyone you know who ends up there. Being a nurse and knowing the drill really helps.

    As for hating this country – I’m there at times, and I often feel like I’ve been teleported/consigned to a primitive age – much the way we would read about 13th century Europe or some equally difficult time, today. It’s our work to try and enlighten the natives, is how I feel.

  15. For me, I always love my country, just not the sick bastards running it. And this includes the corporations, as lobbying has turned this country into a sort of soft-fascism type of governance. My condolescences to you see you in the gulag, I wish I had more to offer than words to you.

  16. moonbat,
    Thanks, I was a bit angry yesterday. Today, I’ll focus on helping to enlighten. You’re right in that that is what we all truly need to do. Tanya changed my life in ways that are difficult for me to explain, or even understand. She did it witht kind of acceptance and grace. We can all try to change the lives of others.

  17. c u n d gulag,

    I am so sorry for your loss.

    You brought up an interesting subject as a result, though, and I would love to see some type of forum that would allow people to express what they feel got them to the way they think today. Individual anecdotes.

    Ultimately, maybe it is just one (or both) of two things: suffering in an unresponsive system (whether government, society, or family), or witnessing same.

  18. Public outrage is one thing. The other shoe dropping will be legislation (formerly called legislation) that will leave no doubt in Wall Street’s mind(s).

    Maybe Congress should go to work on members of the bailed out corporation’s boards. Interview them. Lights, cameras, CSPAN. They are enabling the CEOs.

    When will the time be right to focus on causes rather than symptoms? I fear that by the time that Congress starts to address the causes, that the masters of distraction might water down or even altogether thwart those efforts though their ability to do so might depend on the depth of public outrage, not yet deep or broad enough.

  19. sorry, that meant to read :

    Public outrage is one thing. The other shoe dropping will be legislation (formerly called regulation) that will leave no doubt in Wall Street’s mind(s).

Comments are closed.