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goldman-sachs, giant vampire squid

03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Goldman Sachs, the giant vampire squid,
wrapped around our faces with a funnel,
sits upon a Ponzi pyramid,
preventing light to shine within its tunnel.
Although upon such bankers falls the onus
of guilt for economic meltdown, they
continue paying a humongous bonus
to traders who behave like croupiers.
Tone-deaf like President Obama they,
in dollars marinating, quite ignore
the taxpayers' distrust and their dismay
at Secretaries who, watching from the shore,
do not take any steps to curb the vampire,
unwilling to draw lines upon the sand
around the White House sandcastle whose umpire
won't call a strike, and strands them on the strand.
Rockefeller knew noblesse oblige
could mitigate the perils of excess,
but Goldman Sachs instead has laid a siege
around all Congress, sharing its largesse
with no one but their traders who don't heed
the fact that they were bailed out by the folk
whom they impoverished and caused to bleed,
small fry that vampire squids just love to choke.

Inspired by an article by Frank Rich in the NYT, October 18, 2009 ("Goldman Can You Spare a Dime"):

At the dawn of the progressive era early in the last century, muckrakers attacked the first billionaire, John D. Rockefeller, for creating capitalism's most ruthless monster. "The Octopus" was their nickname for Standard Oil, the trust that controlled nearly 90 percent of American oil.

But even in that primordial phase of the industrial era, Rockefeller was mindful of his public image and eager to counter it. "His great brainstorm," writes his biographer, Ron Chernow, "was undoubtedly his decision to dispense shiny souvenir dimes to adults and nickels to children as he moved about." Who could hate an octopus tossing glittering coins? It was hard not to think of Rockefeller's old P.R. playbook while watching Goldman Sachs's behavior when the Dow hit 10,000 last week. As leader of the Wall Street pack, Goldman declared surging profits, keeping it on track to dispense a record $23 billion in bonuses for 2009. But most Americans know all too well that only the intervention of billions of dollars in taxpayer bailout money saved Goldman from the dire fate of its less well-connected competitors. The growing ranks of under-and-unemployed Americans, meanwhile, are waiting with increasing desperation for a recovery of their own....

Obama has also passed through Harvard. (Disclosure: so did I.) He too has consistently said all the right things about the "money culture" of "quick kills and bloated bonuses," of "reckless behavior and unchecked excess." But the air of entitlement that continues to waft from his administration sends another message. In particular, the tone-deaf Treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner, never ceases to amaze. His daily calendars reveal that most of his contacts with the financial sector in the first seven months of 2009 were limited to the trinity of Goldman Sachs, Citigroup and JPMorgan. And last week Bloomberg News reported that his inner circle of "counselors" -- key advisers who, conveniently enough, do not require Senate confirmation -- are largely drawn from the same club. It's hard to see how any public official can challenge a culture that he is marinating in, night and day. Those Obama fans who are disappointed keep looking for explanations. Is he too impressed by the elite he met in Cambridge, too eager to split the difference between left and right, too willing to compromise?

As he pursues legislation, why does he keep deferring to others -- whether to his party's Congressional leaders or the Congressional Budget Office or to this month's acting president, Olympia Snowe? Why doesn't he ever draw a line in the sand? "We know Obama has good values," Jeff Madrick said to me last week, "but we don't know if he has convictions." What we also know is that if Teddy Roosevelt palled around with John D. Rockefeller as today's political class does with Wall Street's titans and lobbyists, the tentacles of the original octopus would still be coiled tightly around America's neck.