An AP news story issued today begins like this:
WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama issued a withering critique Thursday of Wall Street corporate behavior, calling it “the height of irresponsibility” for Wall Street employees to be paid more than $18 billion in bonuses last year while their financial sector was crumbling.
“It is shameful,” Obama said from the Oval Office. “And part of what we’re going to need is for the folks on Wall Street who are asking for help to show some restraint, and show some discipline, and show some sense of responsibility.”
I beg your pardon, Mr. President? These are Wall Street types you’re talking about, not software moguls or aircraft makers. I can readily see a computer-science nerd with a great love for his subject making it big in Silicon Valley, or a kid with a love of flying going into the aviation industry and somehow soaring to the top. But finance? What reason other than greed would anyone have for going to work for a Wall Street firm? Spiritual fulfillment? What responsibility should they have, other than for filling their own wallets? (I was going to write “their own and their friends’,” but then I thought of Bernie Madoff.)
No, Mr. President, asking “the folks on Wall Street… to show some restraint, and show some discipline, and show some sense of responsibility” is, as they say in Spanish, asking an elm for pears (pedirle peras al olmo).