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Dennis M. Kelleher Headshot

More Unconscionable Wall Street Whining

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I can barely write this as tears for the poor, picked-on Wall Street bankers fill my eyes as they are comforted by Obama's campaign manager, who reportedly met yesterday with his big donors on Wall Street.

Until we fix the sickening campaign finance system, I don't like, but I understand that all fundraising politicians have to raise money and meet with donors and I understand why the campaign manager did, but how anyone on Wall Street could feel picked-on by Obama is beyond reason. Every single Wall Street bank would have been bankrupt, broken up and/or liquidated in 2008-2009 due to their recklessness, greed, incompetence and arrogance. The only reason that didn't happen is because the US government, with taxpayer dollars, bailed them all out and, indefensibly, did so with no strings attached so they quickly began stuffing their pockets with billions in bonuses in mere months.

Most of these "demoralized" Wall Streeters would have lost everything: their bank accounts, their multiple homes at the world's hottest locations, their many sports cars, Italian designed wardrobes, yachts, club memberships, jets, helicopters, cooks and legions of house help and personal assistants and everything else they purchased with the tens of billions of dollars they sucked out of the economy as they created the bubble of toxic, worthless assets in the years before the financial collapse that they caused.

True, they didn't create it alone, but, in the hierarchy of those who caused the financial crisis, any fair-minded, unbiased list would put them at the top. That is particularly true if one looked at who benefited the most from the bubble and who was treated the best once the bubble popped. No one was treated better before, during and after the crisis that Wall Street. The government didn't open the treasury and taxpayer pockets with no strings attached for anyone other than the financial industry (compare the demands and concessions forced on the auto industry).

Anyone not directly or indirectly on the payroll of Wall Street or their ideological fellow travelers (who are almost all coincidentally also on the payroll) sees this and understands this. They see that no accountability only applies on Wall Street. They see that no-strings bailouts only apply to the already-rich Wall Street bankers. They see the unlevel playing field created and sustained by a federal safety net that looks a lot like a hammock for the filthy rich. (The Wall Streeters and their allies like to say such criticism is an attack on wealth, entrepreneurs and capitalism itself. That baseless, self-serving attempt to distract and distort the debate is laughable. No one is attacking Silicon Valley, Bill Gates, Apple, Caterpillar, Procter and Gamble, Hewlett-Packard, AT&A, IBM or the rest of the Fortune 500 -- or celebrities, athletes or other super-wealthy people. No -- the criticism is focused on the biggest Wall Street banks and bankers that enriched and engorged themselves at the expense of the rest of the country, that caused the crisis, got bailout out by taxpayers and just can't stop claiming they are picked on, and that still benefit from a taxpayer-funded federal safety net that subsidizes their current too-big-to-fail operations.)

It is also obvious to see that Main Street, not Wall Street, has paid and is paying for the costs of the financial crisis. They see a hollowed-out middle class struggling just to get by, having lost most of their stock value, home value, savings and retirement funds. These are the people living paycheck to paycheck with gnawing insecurity that at any moment it can all disappear and they too could join the ranks of the unemployed and, even, the homeless.

Food stamp use is at an all time high and, most tellingly, the ramp up in use is in what used to be solid middle class neighborhoods. The same is true for free and subsidized school lunches. The distinction between the poor and the middle class is evaporating in far too many communities in America. Sadly, hope and the American Dream are also slowly receding from the horizons of too many hard-working American families.

And, yet, in the midst of all this pain, suffering and wreckage, Obama's campaign manager has to go to the oh-so-exclusive "Core Club in Manhatten" to reassure the bonus-bloated bankers that "Obama won't demonize Wall Street as he emphasizes populist appeals in his re-election campaign ...." As if that wasn't enough, this was reported to be "the latest in a series of hand-holding sessions."

It was also reported that one anonymous banker stopped going to these meetings because "the actual White House message of locking up fat cat bankers and raising their taxes never actually changes." Er, ok, could anyone, please, identify a fat cat banker that got locked up? Nooooooooooooooo. There have been none. Not one. THAT actually is part of the problem. They are almost all still right where they were when they were creating the bubble or have departed Wall Street to the comfort of their billions or millions. (And, their taxes remain historically low.)

Every single sane employed person on Wall Street should be sending a check to Obama -- they would all be an empty shell of themselves but for him and the actions his administration took to stop the collapse of the financial system and our economy. Yet, ignoring all evidence and facts, Wall Street is reported to be "an industry that the White House has thoroughly and repeatedly demonized and demoralized" -- what? That's so ludicrous that it could be a "Seriously" skit on Saturday Night Live. Or an Onion headline.

But, no, Wall Street, its bankers and its allies everywhere, including in the media, actually think that Obama has "thoroughly and repeatedly demonized and demoralized" Wall Street. Can they really be that thin-skinned? Can they really be that out of touch with reality? Can they really be that narcissistic to not see their "plight" relative to what is happening to the rest of the country? Sadly, the answer to all those questions is yes. Wall Street and those who make fact-free assertions from their mahogany-line corner offices, 30,000 square foot mansions and spacious limousines about their plight live in a parallel universe that begins and ends in the mirror they gaze in and apparently mistake for the entire world.

Until they look beyond their reflection in the mirror and until one of the titans on Wall Street actually becomes a statesman, then Wall Street's whining won't end and no amount of "hand-holding" meetings will satisfy them.