Whether writing a column or voicing an opinion, it’s always a good idea to be correct on the facts. So let’s survey some recent facts. Earlier in the month of April, President Obama convened a global summit on the very critical issue of nuclear proliferation with a goal of developing strategies to contain and eliminate such proliferation. News reports indicate that 47 heads of state came from around the world to attend this momentous event. The last time 47 heads of state came to the United States at the request of the President of the United States was after World War II when President Harry S Truman convened a conference at which the consensus for the establishment of the United Nations was established.
Clearly the subject of nuclear proliferation is one that affects us all. At the risk of stating the obvious, nuclear proliferation threatens the entire planet, present and future. Obviously, the heads of state from 47 countries thought that the issue was important enough to accept an invitation from President Obama to listen, discuss, exchange points of view and to determine at the very least, the outlines of a plan of action. And we should be clear, President Obama was not only the host, he was the putative chairman of a key global summit, first among equals if you will.
What is not so very obvious is the rational process of the Masters of the Universe, better known as the beneficiaries of titanic paychecks and gargantuan federal taxpayer bailouts. We do know that they are motivated by profit although when they are not very profitable they saw the absolute logic of the American citizenry propping up their gadget driven business models. We do know that they are supposed to represent the best and the brightest that American schools and investment firms and law firms have to offer. And we do know that they are so much the best and so much the brightest that they almost managed to collapse the financial system for much of the industrialized world spreading a great penumbra of pain and misery and displacement and unemployment and hopelessness across wide swaths of the population of this country and of many, many countries throughout the world.
But there is no need to speak poorly of the benighted best and brightest. They are the gift that keeps on giving when it comes to giving us reasons to be critical of Wall Street and the forces that motivate the men and women who created this morass called the financial crisis. Even at this point in time there is very little energy behind critiques of a financial services system that provides fewer and fewer financings for business expansion and new jobs. There is very little criticism of a financial system that derives profits from “products” that seem a lot like the computer games that bright teenagers play. The difference is, of course, that these teenagers don’t ruin the economies of the countries where they reside.
What is noteworthy, however, is that when President Obama spoke at Cooper Union on April 22nd, less than two miles from Wall Street, very few representatives from the Wall Street community were present. The best and the brightest of the best and the brightest, the chieftains of the rapacious clans that roam over the financial countryside, just couldn’t find time to attend. To be accurate, Lloyd Blankfein, the CEO of Goldman Sachs did have the good sense to show up, but unlike the 47 heads of state that flew from all over the world at the invitation of President Obama to discuss a critical issue, most of the Wall Street titans just couldn’t be bothered.
Perhaps they were in their counting houses counting up their money. Or, more likely, they were meeting with their lobbyists to be sure that they were clear on their mission to gut, eviscerate and otherwise kill the financial regulatory legislation that has been proposed by the Administration. Not that the legislation is that radical, but it is clear that the best and the brightest feel that, as proper Masters of the Universe, any control, oversight, supervision or inquiry into their loft affairs offends the laws of nature and must be stopped at any cost.
And, when it comes to cost, money is no object for these best and brightest. Aided and abetted by the right wing of the right wing Supreme Court cabal of Roberts, Alito, Thomas and Scalia, corporations now have the save rights to freedom of speech that individuals were granted when the Constitution was first written. The notion that Madison and Jefferson and Adams and Franklin envisioned Goldman Sachs and J.P. Morgan Chase as individuals with rights that needed to be established and protected would be a pitiful joke if not for the pitiful joke of a Supreme Court decision authored by the referenced cabal.
And, because money is no object for these best and brightest, do not be surprised at the torrents of dollars that will flow to the opponents of financial regulation. And, if the law passes, do not be surprised at the largesse that will flow to candidates who wish to repeal the legislation (throwing healthcare into the bargain too, unless I miss my guess).
So we now understand why the best and the brightest of the best and the brightest had no time to listen to the President of the United States talk about their industry. They were simply too busy.
Wallace Ford is the Principal of Fordworks Associates, a New York-based management consulting firm and is the author of two novels, The Pride and What You Sow.