Let’s Put Down the Pitchforks
By Steven Pearlstein
Friday, March 20, 2009; D01
We’re angry. We’re frustrated. We feel cheated and abused. We’re not going to take it anymore.
But then again, we don’t have much choice, do we? Sure, we can demand that a few more heads roll on Wall Street, or at the Treasury, or that a few hundred million are clawed back from financiers who never deserved it. But the reality is that no matter what we do now, tens of trillions of dollars in wealth have been lost. All that’s left is simply an elaborate exercise in settling up the accounts.
At the end of the day, the thing to get outraged about is not the $440 million in bonuses at AIG or the $10 million that Citigroup is spending to redesign its shrunken executive suite. These may seem like princely sums, but they are almost insignificant compared with the real outrage: the hundreds of billion dollars of taxpayer funds that have been put at risk to keep AIG and Citi from failing and taking the whole financial system down with them. Let’s keep our attention on the elephant rather than the pimples on its behind.
We are not French and we are not at the barricades, but our current focus on the pimple rather than the elephant is simply not understood outside the beltway or Wall Street. America is angry for having been taken as fools. We’re mad as hell and not going to take it any more.
The nation is in a “Network” moment. What’s so hard to understand about that? For the average American it’s just as improbable that people who actually still have jobs would attempt to extort their bosses to stay on. Particularly in cases where
- their bosses are American taxpayers
- the extortionists are the very people who drove their companies off a cliff and
- by the average Joe’s standards, they were grossly overpaid to do so
So it’s useless, Steven, to compare the zits on Wall Street’s behind to elephants, when the herd is milling about and mewing like pussycats who can’t find their milk-bowl.
America wants the zits squeezed.