Today's New York Times has an encouraging article about the things that Goldman Sachs is doing to cleanse its image as a greedy and destructive force in the U.S. economy and society. Apparently Warren Buffett is teach their senior team a bit of humility, or at least how to feign it.
This is all old news, but I can't stop thinking about the comparison between how the Rolling Stone described Goldman versus how CEO Blankfein did (a statement that got him in big trouble, by the way).
In July, a story in the Rolling Stone called "The Great American Bubble Machine" started out:The first thing you need to know about Goldman Sachs is that it's everywhere. The world's most powerful investment bank is a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.
In contrast, here is what Goldman CEO was quoted as saying about his job in The Times of London last week: 'I'm doing God's work."
I am really trying to avoid the temptation to engage in mindless bashing of Goldman Sachs as I have met many people from the company I admire and in many ways it is splendidly managed company. But the thing that gnaws at me can be gleaned from the Kurt Vonnegut poem that was published in The No Asshole Rule and that I have reprinted on this blog, called Joe Heller (read it here). When people act if no matter how much money, status, goodies, and other material goods pile-up, it is never enough for them, I start to squirm. I am glad that Goldman is reaching out to help small business , offering some 3% of their 16.7 billion in bonuses to do so. That is a start. My gut feeling is that something closer to 50% would be more appropriate --- especially for the top 100 or so people in the firm. But I think they ought to read Vonnegut's poem, as it is a message they need to hear -- especially at a time when over 10% of the U.S. workforce is unemployed, most of whom shelled-out tax money to help save Goldman and their ilk from their own greed, arrogance, and misleading statements -- a new government report rebukes their claim that they didn't much benefit much at all from the massive AIG bailout (see this story in the Wall Street Journal).
I am glad that Goldman is starting to grovel a bit and is giving a bit more back after their arrogance failed them, but I would I think they owe their fellow Americans more than a lousy 3%. I know they will be paying whopping taxes on all this money, but for me, they need to do more to help all those people who saved their ass.