AIG’s CEO Robert Benmosche, the CEO of AIG, told the Wall Street Journal that anger because much of the bailout money given to AIG was used for gigantic bonuses, is “just as bad and just as wrong” as lynchings were.
No, really, that’s what he said.
The uproar over bonuses “was intended to stir public anger, to get everybody out there with their pitchforks and their hangman nooses, and all that — sort of like what we did in the Deep South [decades ago]. And I think it was just as bad and just as wrong.”
Ezra Klein points out that Benmosche’s view on how immoral it is to criticize Wall Street is not unique among his class:
Benmosche is expressing a view that was pretty common back in 2010 and 2011, when it was kind of a thing for members of the besieged 1 percent to compare public anger over their compensation to the way Nazi Germany treated the weak. There was supermarket mogul John Catsimatidis:
“Taxes are going to go up regardless. What I’m afraid of is, we shouldn’t punish any one group. Whether we’re punishing people who are wealthy,” he said. “New York is for everybody; it’s for the poor, it’s for the middle-class, it’s for the wealthy. We can’t punish any one group and chase them away. We – I mean, Hitler punished the Jews. We can’t have punishing the ‘2 percent group’ right now.”
Blackstone’s chairman Steven Schwarzman had this to say:
“It’s a war,” Schwarzman said of the struggle with the administration over increasing taxes on private-equity firms. “It’s like when Hitler invaded Poland in 1939.”
I was in an off-the-record meeting with top Wall Street folks where similar comparisons to Nazi Germany were tossed around. It really was a meme on Wall Street that the singling out of the wealthy for criticism — and, more to the point, taxation — had a direct historical precedent in Nazi Germany, where the Jews were first demonized, then taxed, and then, well, you know. The sense was that the rich in general, and Wall Street in particular, weren’t just being criticized, but that they were being turned into a dangerously despised minority.
That’s the context of Benmosche’s comment. I would bet he’s made the same point a number of times in private rooms to appreciative nods. When you say and hear that kind of thing often enough, however, you forget how insane and offensive it is — and then you say it to the Wall Street Journal.
How much self-regard can these people have? How much perspective can they lack?
Absolutely agree here.
What is worse about the Wall Street nimrods is that they FAILED in their businesses, so they can’t even claim the usual capitalist stuff. If true capitalism had taken its course, they would have been unemployed. Many other banks would have gone the way of Lehman Brothers. They are instead thriving on a socialist-type taxpayer bailout.
I tend to think that a “socialist bailout” of the banks would’ve entailed a government takeover of said banks. I think you are mistaking the terms kleptocratic and oligarchicist for socialist.
Man-at-Arms? Stratos? Mekanek? even Orko?
I’m so disillusioned….
Jake, I was under the impression government (i.e. public) ownership of the banks would make it a communist takeover. Socialism isn’t defined by public ownership of resources such as banking institutions—communism is. Socialism is just cooperative planning and management of a country’s economy, e.g. reallocating public funds to bail out financial institutions so that they don’t fail and the economy doesn’t tank, to forward the common interest. You can still retain private ownership of corporations that receive public funds under a socialist system.
But I personally prefer to refer to the bailouts as corporate welfare.
The idiot used in the title is an abelist slur.
Corporate welfare is exactly right, and the moral hazard engendered is the type that wrecks nations, not individual families.
The failed banks should have been appropriated and reconstituted (Amp’s namby-pamby preference) or razed to the ground and the earth salted and their executives tattooed with a black mark of shame on their foreheads (my own more vigorous domestic policy approach).
Sarah is correct to note that socialism can funnel public money to the direct profit of private enterprise, for “the common good”. That is one of the reasons that socialism is a shitty system. How wonderful for America that we’re adopting the worst feature of the Euro-sclero economy.
“Socialism” is a broad umbrella that covers all sorts of approaches, and the relationship between government and private money is one of the things that varies considerably between them. So it’s not really correct to refer to any one government action as socialist or not, just like the fact that private individuals were allowed to own some property in the USSR shouldn’t really be referred to as a capitalist policy.
That said, any system that involves a unidirectional transfer of public money to private hands without accompanying regulation is not something I would call socialist. Socialism is about public *control* of the economy, not public *support* of the economy.
Let’s compromise and just agree that anyone who takes any public money gets set on fire. Everybody wins.
If build a man a fire, he’s warm for a day.
If you set a man on fire, he’s warm for the rest of his life.
By their cellmates in Gen Pop, not a “white collar” prison, using soot and a sharpened fork tine.
Reminds me of this post.
And also this one, from this very blog.
Re: So it’s not really correct to refer to any one government action as socialist or not, just like the fact that private individuals were allowed to own some property in the USSR shouldn’t really be referred to as a capitalist policy.
Plenty of capitalist governments in the past have expropriated individual banks or businesses here or there (usually to forestall revolution, not to enact it). Individual acts of intervention in the economy don’t make a government socialist.
Bailing out failing companies is what you could call ‘directed capitalism’ or ‘managed capitalism’ or in the extreme ‘state capitalism’.
“Just as the Fugitive Slave Act was an overreach by the federal government, so too we understand that Obamacare is an assault on the rights of individuals.” — State Rep. William O’Brien of New Hampshire.