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Thursday, March 29, 2012 03:58 am

Banker hubris knows no bounds

Have you heard about the earthquake that has shaken Wall Street to its very core? Well, brace yourself, for this really is a shocker: Bonus payments are down.

Yes, the exorbitant bonus checks pocketed each year by the Goldman Sachers, Citigroupers and other financial tinkerers have been cut by about 25 percent this year, and – oh! – you should hear the Wall Streeters moaning the hard-times, down-and-out banker blues.

“It’s a disaster,” sobbed one. “The entire construct of compensation has changed.”

Wall Street bankers are human, too (aren’t they?) – so open your hearts to their pain.

A hedge-fund manager, for example, says he’ll now have to strain to pay his $7,500 annual dues to remain a member of the Trump National Golf Club in Westchester. Plus, he worries about food, health care and boarding. Not for him and his family, but for his two dogs – he’s been laying out $17,000 a year for upkeep of his labradoodle and bichon frise, including around $5,000 to hire a dog-walker to take them out each day.

Are these one-percenters actually worth their bonus checks, even at this year’s discounted level? Well, one of the top one-tenth-of-one-percenters, Lloyd Blankfein, says: Hell yes! CEO of Goldman Sachs, Blankfein has sacked up a multimillion-dollar personal fortune in bonus cash, but he claims to be worth every penny because he’s doing “God’s work.”

Whoa – that would be one very mean god! Blankfein actually is an ungodly angel of avarice, who turned his once-proud investment house into a casino of greed that was a central player in Wall Street’s crash of our economy. But don’t take my word for it. He has now been burned by one of his own – a Goldman Sachs executive who got so fed up with the “toxic and destructive” culture fostered by Blankfein that he has resigned and gone public with the banking giant’s internal ugliness.

Greg Smith, a 12-year veteran with Goldman and head of one of its major divisions, penned a March 14 New York Times op-ed piece declaring, “It makes me ill how callously (Goldman bankers) talk about ripping their clients off.” Forget about the quaint notion that banks are meant to serve the public good, Smith confirms that his fellow financiers no longer care about serving the good of their own customers, instead focusing laser-like on enriching the bankers themselves.

Rather than helping clients, he writes, “it’s purely about how we can make the most possible money off of them.” Smith pointedly adds that this crass selfishness all comes from the top, noting that it’s now common to hear Goldman’s managing directors privately deride their own clients as “muppets” – stupid people who’re easily manipulated. The ruling ethic is – by hook or crook – to haul in bags of client gold for Goldman. If you do that, he writes, “(and are not currently an ax murderer) you will be promoted into a position of influence.”

Remember, these are the people you and I were forced to bail out, yet far from showing even a modicum of humility or gratitude, their narcissism is now so extreme that it’s even causing bankers to gag!

Jim Hightower is a national radio commentator, columnist and author.
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