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Predatory Bank Barons are God’s Humble Warriors

Lloyd Blankfein is the chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs. In 1869, a German-Jewish immigrant named Marcus Goldman founded the company. Thirteen years later, the little commercial paper dealer celebrated its bar mitzvah by bringing on Goldman’s son-in-law, Samuel Sachs. … Read More

By / November 9, 2009

Lloyd Blankfein is the chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs. In 1869, a German-Jewish immigrant named Marcus Goldman founded the company. Thirteen years later, the little commercial paper dealer celebrated its bar mitzvah by bringing on Goldman’s son-in-law, Samuel Sachs. Thus was born what Rolling Stone recently called, channeling their late-great Hunter S. Thompson, “a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.”

Lloyd Blankfein, who with his wide, pursed lips looks for all the world like a Muppet, recently told the Times of London he and the rest of his colleagues at Goldman Sachs are “doing God’s work.” This is the point when you picture a Muppet in a suit and tie riding atop a giant vampire squid wrapped around our planet. Perhaps the Muppet would be holding a cross, except he’s Jewish. So there would be a Magen David in his hand. Take a moment. Picture it. It’s funny, isn’t it? Except it’s not. It’s an anti-Semitic wood cut yanked straight from the worst screeds of Henry Ford’s printing press. Some version of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion probably features an illustration close to, if not identical, to my little depiction. I would be annoyed by this, even repulsed by the very image, if Blankfein and Goldman Sachs didn’t make it so fucking easy. This is a company that made $3.2 billion. In profit. In three months. This year. This year when unemployment has soared to 10.2 percent and rising. This year when that figure rises to over seventeen percent when you count the people who’ve stopped looking for work or scrape by on part-time gigs because they can’t land a full-time job with benefits. By benefits, I mean health care. I don’t mean the multi-million dollar stock options or bonus payments that line the pockets of Goldman Sachs employees, where the average pay this year is $700,000. This is a company that quite literally played both sides of the housing bubble, selling off $40 billion in mortgage-backed securities while secretly betting those mortgages would turn out to be worthless. When the bubble popped, the losses Goldman Sachs would’ve taken were already passed down the line. Instead, they made a killing. I’m using the word ‘killing’ on purpose. This is where I’ll point out, for no particular reason, that Blankfein sits on the board of the Robin Hood Foundation. That is a charitable group working to alleviate poverty in New York. Not laughing yet? Let me repeat it. Blankfein is on the board of a group fighting poverty. I will, for now, not even bother to disentangle the byzantine labyrinth of fecal financial instruments, shady legal dead zones, or government largesse employed by Goldman Sachs (and others) to keep themselves filthy rich. If you want to know, and you should want to know, you’re better off reading this article by McClatchy wherein the housing market double-dealing is laid bare. Blankfein didn’t want to be interviewed for that article. Or you could read the entire Times of London report. There is where Blankfein was all too happy to speak, saying simply that Goldman Sachs helps “companies to grow by helping them to raise capital. Companies that grow create wealth. This, in turn, allows people to have jobs that create more growth and more wealth. It’s a virtuous cycle.” Ergo, he’s God’s fiscal trooper. Canny observers might otherwise recognize this as a textbook definition of trickle-down economics. That would be the widely discredited theory (by everyone not living in the conservative bizarro world) wherein if you give gobs of cash (usually in tax breaks and deregulatory sops) to people who already have gobs of cash, they’ll invest it and it’ll eventually trickle down to the rest of us. A trickle is about the only thing coming down, and it’s decidedly yellow. Look, I don’t begrudge people who believe that going out and making good money is a worthwhile goal. We do have an obligation to work, to support ourselves and our families. In a market where dollars often follow connections more than they follow smarts and merit, I can hardly blame anyone for working to build those connections. Every single system on earth is there to be rigged, if you can figure out how to rig it. But please let’s leave God out of it. We live in a society where the gap between the wealthiest fraction and the poorest mass has grown exponentially over the past forty years. We live in a country where illness can bankrupt a middle class citizen, and where our sickest citizens can’t even afford the insurance necessary to save their lives. We live in a world where, according to analyses of the latest job numbers, those who still have a job are being forced to work longer hours for minimal gains in salary, in order to boost the short-term profit margins of the invested class. So when one of those invested few, a Jewish boy from the Bronx who went to Harvard and then ruled Goldman Sachs, winks and says he’s just a humble banker doing the good Lord’s work, I’m more than a little annoyed. It’s a shanda, and as clear a case as there can be of the disconnect between the haves and the have-nots. If Lloyd Blankfein is doing God’s work, he’s doing a very bad job of it, and making a mint off the disgrace.

 

It turns out Bradford isn’t the only one taking issue with Goldman Sachs this week. A clip from Saturday Night Live’s "Weekend Update" mocks the financial company’s decision to immunize their workers against swine flu even though there’s a shortage of the vaccine:

 

 

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