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A Fable With No Moral November 9, 2009

Posted by monty in news, politics.
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money tp

I didn’t grow up in a wealthy family. For a good chunk of my childhood, we lived on my dad’s income as a high school principal. It wasn’t until I was in 3rd grade that my mom went back to work as a substitute teacher, and a year or two after that that she was back in her own classroom full-time. In certain California school districts I came to know, it wasn’t unheard of for teachers and administrators to make six figures. But this was rural Ohio in the 80’s. When I graduated from college in ’95, I was offered a job in my hometown school district for just over $20,000 a year. My parents’ salaries ten years prior couldn’t have been much more than that, and, at least at first, were probably less.

Even so, my brother and I lived comfortably. My parents were frugal (a lesson I now wish I had learned from them better), saved religiously, and dabbled a bit in the stock market, and as a result, our family was financially secure. We didn’t always have the flashiest stuff, but there was always a bumper crop under the tree every Christmas, and we took a vacation every summer without fail – Disney World and Epcot Center; up the Eastern seaboard to Bar Harbor, Maine; the Grand Tetons in Wyoming; San Francisco up to Seattle and back again. There was money precisely because my parents were smart with it.

Their work ethic and frugality had an unintended consequence. As I look back at my life in an effort to make sense of who I am now, I think it’s having seen my parents work so hard, make relatively little money, and devote it all to making sure my brother and I were raised well, that directly contributed to the class warrior I’ve become.

I’ve always been suspicious and mistrustful of the wealthy, regardless of how kind they might seem. This has sometimes been to my detriment, when I’ve refused to give someone a fair shake simply because of my preconceptions about their money and how they came to have it. I can be standoffish even in the best of situations, and this is only exacerbated by my thinking anyone who’s well-to-do is a selfish, greedy pig.

The inevitable retort is that I shouldn’t be jealous of other people’s wealth. I’m not. Trust me. I live in a modest one-bedroom apartment, and I don’t really aspire to anything bigger. I drive a Toyota Yaris, and it suits me just fine. I travel occasionally, buy lots of movies, and purchase a yearly iPod update, but otherwise I simply don’t yearn for extravagance. And, in the instances where I do splurge on something flashy (like my TV, the one really nice possession I own), it’s after saving for months, which is as it should be. So I don’t look at other people’s ritzy lives and think, “Gee, I wish that were me.” I’m content with what I’ve got, and I know if I keep saving I’ll be able to afford the things that make me happy.

I say all of this as a long-winded and circuitous explanation for how rabidly, mouth-frothingly angry I get at just about any mention of Goldman-Sachs, Citibank, Chase, or any of the other banking institutions that represent some of the worst of 21st Century human nature. I don’t know enough about the financial sector to understand the ins and outs of everything these parasites are doing (and if you watch one key section of Michael Moore’s recent film, Capitalism: A Love Story, the bankers don’t understand it either), but I do know this: the wealth these people hold is disgusting and, dare I say it, immoral.

I can understand the anger some people feel toward the government, but it increasingly seems to me that they’re missing the more obvious culprit. The government wouldn’t have had to bail out the banks if the banks hadn’t willfully put themselves in that situation in the first place. They prey on home owners, account holders, card users, and then, after the bankers have fucked things up so righteously they need governmental assistance to prevent them from living in a box under the bridge, they go right back to giving themselves salaries and bonuses that are completely disproportionate to any good they’re actually doing.

And then in the last few days we’ve learned two other disturbing things:

1) Goldman Sachs employees got the H1N1 vaccine before schools and hospitals.

The excuse I’ve heard to justify this goes something like this: “We have high-risk employees that need to be protected from H1N1 too.” Yeah, I imagine Goldman Sachs has a large number of the elderly, the sickly, and small children on their payroll. The truth is, every Goldman Sachs employee who gets the vaccine represents another person in New York City who needs it but is unable to get it. The government, as always, bears some responsibility for once again reinforcing the idea that if you’re rich, you’re important, and if you’re not, well, you can get H1N1 and die.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

2) Goldman Sachs doing “God’s work”; chairman and CEO Lloyd Blankfein apparently agrees.

Do I even really need to comment on this? Some of the salient facts from the article perfectly underline the frustration I feel with these douchebags. Average pay for employees of the firm is $700,000 a year. How long will it take you to make that much, and how hard do you feel you work compared to an investment banker? I feel like I work my ass off, and it’ll take me the better part of two decades to come close to that average salary. Blankfein paid himself $68 million in 2007 – the highest salary of any CEO – and has $500 million in Goldman stock. The company has set aside $20 billion for bonuses. All of this – as well as playing a sizable hand in our current recession – and Blankfein has the balls to claim banks like Goldman have “a social purpose.” So do prostitutes, Lloyd. And maybe God has changed the nature of the work he likes people to do, but what was that thing He said about a camel and the eye of a needle? And how exactly did Christ feel about the money changers in the temple? It’s escaping me at the moment.

As usual, Matt Taibbi hits the nail on the head.

I think the reason I get so angry about all of this is that I really just don’t understand it, and so my only recourse is confused agitation. So many people in this country work so hard just to scrape by, and then these schmucks rake in multi-million-dollar salaries, destroy the economy, go crying to Papa Bush, get rescued, and then turn right around and rub it in our faces. It’s so selfish and inconsiderate it practically defies belief. A $68 million salary? Why is that even necessary? I hate to say it, but my gut tells me that if you really feel like you need $68 million to live your life, than your life probably isn’t worth living.

*****

Current listening:

Super furry guerrilla

Super Furry Animals – Guerrilla (1999)

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Comments»

1. thoreauly77 - November 9, 2009

absolutely.

its very difficult to think about anything without turning the lens toward self, but if i do that, i will be so goddamn angry i might explode.

and adelaide does clean house very well.

2. euandus - November 12, 2009

God’s work. Yup. That’s Goldman’s CEO’s view of his work. So of course there is no problem with the bonuses (that goes without saying). It is a lot like John D. Rockefeller’s view of himself. I recommend the following if you are interested, http://euandus3.wordpress.com/2009/11/12/goldman-sachs-and-aig/


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