Pity The Poor PlutocratsNovember 28th, 2012 12:00 am Gene Lyons
Pity the poor plutocrats.
What with Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign having come to an ignominious end, new champions have been called forth lest mobs of pitchfork-waving grandmas and torch-bearing old men rendered fearless by Dentu-Grip breach the walls of their elegant suburban redoubts.
One such hero is Lloyd Blankfein, the universally revered CEO of Wall Street investment bank Goldman Sachs. At least that’s how anchorman Scott Pelley presented him in a November 19 CBS News interview. Adopting a tone of awed deference most often reserved for British royalty and Hollywood actresses with breasts bigger than their heads, Pelley depicted Blankfein as “one of the world’s most influential bankers.”
Who better to advise the nation how to avoid the dread “fiscal cliff”—the latest phony, made-for-TV Washington melodrama? The great man even permitted CBS cameras into the Goldman Sachs trading floor, which Pelley treated as a signal honor.
A bunch of guys in neckties sitting in front of computer screens, in case you missed it. It could have been the sports betting room in any Las Vegas casino, essentially a high-tech bookie joint.
“When we asked Blankfein how to reduce the federal budget deficit,” Pelley said “he went straight for the subject that politicians don’t want to talk about.”
To guys with multimillion-dollar salaries, see, the deficit qualifies as the nation’s Number One Problem. Never mind the millions out of work, although as Paul Krugman keeps pointing out, the soaring interest rates and runaway inflation that deficit scolds keep predicting keep not happening. Investors seemingly can’t buy enough U.S. bonds at record low interest rates.
Now, there are several topics Goldman’s head honcho might be reluctant to talk about. Such as 2008, when Wall Street investment banks damn near destroyed the world financial system by gambling on crap securities based on subprime mortgages. Or the $10 billion federal bailout Goldman Sachs took to remain solvent, since repaid.
I doubt Blankfein would have much to tell CBS about the 2010 civil fraud lawsuit the SEC filed against Goldman for peddling junk derivatives it allegedly designed to fail. Many thought criminal charges would have been more appropriate. The bank ultimately settled for a $550 million fine. Blankfein testified to the U.S. Senate that Goldman Sachs had no fiduciary duty to inform clients it was betting against securities it was selling.
You wouldn’t buy a used limousine from this guy.