Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Follies of Ourselves.

Open a newspaper, turn on the computer and the brutal economic news comes at you like an asteroid storm. Now no doubt some of it is true. But am I the only who feels the fear-mongering coming on a bit too strong?

Instilling fear has so far been working with company after company laying off workers, even when its absolutely not necessary. Hey why not lay people off when we can get the others to work twice as hard? Yet we read and hear more and more of these stories, and shake our heads in disgust...

Perhaps what pisses me off the most though is that we continue to let it happen. Case in point is everyone's favourite CEO Richard Fuld of Lehman Brothers who now can proudly claim to be the poster boy for the global economic meltdown.

Sure, he’s at least nominally responsible for the biggest bankruptcy scandal in banking history. He feasted on the subprime market until it folded in on itself and ripped the economy a new bottom line. He set the tone for a Wall Street culture that rewarded ruthlessness and bullish behaviour with a lifestyle of tawdry wealth and taste. He set new standards in ethics-lite investment practice and paid himself over $480 million in his seven years as CEO of Lehman Brothers. And when the company tanked, he washed his hands.

But perhaps, we the people are as much to blame as the Dick Fuld's of the world. After all - we enable and give a mandate for corporate greed to flourish don't we?

In Fuld's case, he was given a mandate to screw the market for every penny he could get. Dylan Young:

For six and half years that’s exactly what he did. And he was loved for it—by the market, the hedge funds, the executives, the pension plans, the shareholders, and the press. But these aren’t the fairest of fairweather friends. The instant Lehman Bros. started to go south, Fuld had to know he was going to wind up taking it in the neck.

In early 2008, he forwarded a proposal that might have kept Lehman Bros. out of the shithole but the investors flinched and the blitzkrieg raged—bankruptcy, bailout, fire sale, you name it. Fuld had killed the very company where he had risen from an intern 42 years earlier to a corporate general’s rank. And CNN, which had lauded him as the top CEO of 2006, put a warrant on his head as one of their 10 Most Wanted: Culprits of the Collapse.

But this is not really about the Dick's of the world is it? Rather isn't it about us? As long as the money keeps rolling in no one cares whether its done by 'unscrupulous opportunists or high-minded philanthropists.'

As we ask ourselves who helped to kill the economy, maybe its time for us to look in the mirror.

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