In the new Wall Street math of the post-9/08 world, it seems that some people turn to humor and others to rage. First they burned down our 401k plans: some people found this funny and made jokes about their “201k” plans. The French got angry and took CEOs hostage. Now, Goldman bankers are buying semi-automatic weapons to protect themselves from the angry mob. Matt Taibbi is desperately seeking humor in this, currently rating it a 7 on a scale of 1 to 10. Alice Schroeder, the story’s originator, finds it humorless, suggesting there could (should?) be “proles…brandishing pitchforks at the doors of Park Avenue.”
In true on-the-ground reporting, a Bloomberg reporter wrote a story after a friend told her that he had written a character reference so that a Goldman Sachs banker could get a gun permit. Alice Schroeder (author of “The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life”) also recounts a few examples of Goldman bankers using their other-worldly prescience to protect themselves: Goldman Sachs Chief Executive Office Lloyd Blankfein – only too well known now for saying that Goldman is doing “God’s work” – got a permit “to install a security gate at his house two months before Bear Stearns Cos. collapsed.”
All of this contributes to the view that Goldman Sachs is, indeed, “a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.” I’m certain that Rolling Stone and Bloomberg have taken action to protect their right to be critical of Goldman. I’ve spent plenty of time on the phone with their fact checkers to know they put a lot of effort into being able to support every word they print. Blogger Mike Morgan, who founded www.GoldmanSachs666.com, had to defend his right to be critical of Government Sachs by going to court last April when Goldman lawyers Chadbourne & Parke threatened him with trademark infringement.
But it isn’t just Goldman and it isn’t just our 401k retirement plans that have been damaged. There are fundamental problems in the way our capital markets are being run. The people running the system have known about these problems since at least the Crash of 1987 – I warned the U.S. central depository for all securities (Depository Trust Company) about it in 1993. Brooksley Born warned a presidential working group about it at a Treasury Department meeting in 1998 – and it contributed to the crash of 2008. As you read this today, nothing has been done to stop it from happening again. The real question is: which group will be the first to turn to action? Those with a sense of humor, those with a sense of security provided by a handgunor those with the sense to make changes?