31 March 2009

Being A Deserver Is A Lot Like Being A Decider

Believe it or not, there are people out there who are trying to explain why the guys at AIG (and Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan) deserve their bonuses/deferred compensation/ransom money for starting the financial wildfire that threatens to burn down the whole country.

Their numbers are few, but the rhetoric is strong, the tone is aggrieved, the righteousness is sanctimonious. "You people are dead wrong", they assert. "We're not going to take it any more."

I'll have to admit, I see why these people got to be executive vice presidents or so called economic whiz kids - it takes a well educated mind and a stupendous amount of motivation to concoct the elaborate straw man arguments these guys come up with. It is as if they are trying to maneuver us around the scene of the derivative wildfires that destroyed all the equity in our homes without letting us stare the charred remains of our own financial lives.

Being a deserver is a lot like being a decider - it's one of those things that can't be earned. You have to confer it on yourself.

This means if you are an auto industry chieftain who hasn't figured out how to convince the O-Team in D.C. that letting the domestic transportation industry die is a "systemic risk", they will give you your gold watch (and parachute) and tell you to clean out your desk.

I can see that President Obama is a dispassionate decision maker. He doesn’t seem to have any particular loyalty to a position, but to the logic behind "why this position is important." Which makes the disparity between the way his administration has treated Wall Street execs and the way they are treating the Big Three auto execs make even less and less sense.

Either Obama believes in the Deserver Doctrine - "I am the only one capable of deciding what is best for me and my company, despite all evidence to the contrary that may exist, and am not to ever be to judged, questioned, or doubted" - or there is something so bad in the banking system's books that bribing these guys to stay on and start more fires, the way they do in California to keep wildfires from spreading, is the only way to have a chance with this God awful mess.

You have to live in a bubble to feel the way the deservers on Wall Street do. I've dubbed them the "double bubbliers" (pronounced DOO - BLAY BUBE - LEE - AY - an extraordinary pronunciation for extraordinary people) because they live inside two bubbles. Not only has their lifestyle been unaffected - these people's outlook on their future is unaffected too, as though, despite all the financial carnage and the evaporation of value in the United States, they don't have to make any adjustments to their career paths, or their business plans, or their retirement plans.

The Double Bubbliers are not just symbols of a class divide between the haves and the have nots; they are a symbol of the way the nature of the relationship between the deservers and the deserve not's are finally being revealed in full detail. President Obama has to come up with a better reason than the ones he and his team have been giving us as to why he's standing with the deservers, because being on the wrong side of this is like wearing a capital "E" for elitist on your chest.

Fargo, North Dakota was nearly washed away by flooding last week. The Red River was the highest it had been in decades, and was threatening to set a new record when it crested on Saturday. The ENTIRE community - rich and poor, working and jobless, young and old, tired and tireder - filled sand bags, transported sand bags, and stacked sand bags against the river's onslaught. I don't have any visual evidence of this, but I'm sure an enterprising reporter looking for an angle could find a few bankers who put their boots on and stood next to their borrowers as the whole town toiled frantically day after day to hold back the rising waters.

The next time somebody starts shooting at our soldiers fulltime, we will wish we had GM and Chrysler and Ford - domestic automakers are the only place you can turn out mass produced tanks and light armored vehicles in a hurry. "Strategic strikes" haven’t won a war yet - bodies on the ground are the only way to bring major military conflicts to an end. I would hate to think we’d have to order our light armored transports from KIA, or beg Toyota to retool so they can build us some tanks.

We are throwing trillions out of the back door of the Fed - why is it so hard to send the 50 or 60 billion to Michigan? If their unemployment rate gets any higher it will be hard to get the state's economy back on track. If this industry disappears, or shrinks severely, it will be next to impossible. Can we as Americans in good conscience stand by and watch millions of our fellow Midwestern citizens get left out in the cold for being a part of the food chain of a failed industry while we hock everything we've got to keep the deservers living in high style, deservers who are also a part of the food chain of a failed industry?

Unless our deservers can get off of their high horses and out of their high rise mind sets, and figure out how to become preservers in a hurry, they may not get enough help from the rest of us when they need it the most to keep the whole financial system from going up in smoke.

Mr. President, that means you too.

Acknowledging the idea of the White House "bubble" is cute, but since you went to the trouble of keeping your precious Blackberry, why don't you use it. Call some people who don't sit at government desks all day so you can get some perspective on how bad all this looks to the deserve not's.

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