As if Goldman Sachs did not already have enough image problems as the biggest pig at the Wall Street trough, it is now the most serious contender for the 2009 Marie Antoinette Award, which recognizes singular achievements in out-of-touch condescension.
Goldman has made no secret of the fact that it has set aside some $16.7 billion to be paid out to its employees as bonuses for the year 2009. Now, this is a pretty big pile of money to have amassed just one year after coming close to a meltdown and accepting government (i.e., taxpayer) funds. In fact, it’s more than just pretty big, it’s obscene.
It’s big enough and obscene enough to make ordinary people who are struggling to find jobs, pay the bills, keep the house out of foreclosure, etc. want to do things to Goldman that usually only happen in chainsaw movies. After all, these people figure, we pulled their butts out of the fire with taxpayer money and now they’re rubbing our noses in these outlandish bonuses only a year later.
These violent urges are compounded by the knowledge that Goldman’s excesses are part of what brought about the severe unemployment situation, the cratering housing market and the all but invisible credit market.
This rage is strong enough that it apparently has reached the ivory towers of the executive suites of Wall Street and caused some (minor) tremors. What if the politicians who up to now have been in our pockets grab hold of this rage and use it to start fencing us in? Or the more likely scenario: What if this rage becomes so strong that these politicians have no choice but to grab hold of it, even if they don’t want to leave our pockets?
In the face of this, Goldman’s CEO Lloyd Blankfein apologized, sort of. Just recently he said, “We participated in things that were clearly wrong and have reason to regret. We apologize.”