Saturday, January 17, 2009
MUCH ADO ABOUT MADOFF
Ah, the "great men" of Wall Street are in a tizzy. "He's a sociopath," they cry as they beat their breasts and look towards the heavens. "He tricked us!"
That he did.
He harmed a great number of people. Innocent citizens whose entire savings were wrapped up in Madoff investments lost everything. Charities that helped the poor and those in need were left scrambling to survive and continue their good works. Make no mistake, Madoff's actions were those of pure malice. I feel for the innocent ones who were caught in his web.
Do I feel for the "great men" of Wall Street? Not so much.
These "Master of the Universe" are not so upset at the type of actions that Madoff took as they are at the fact that these actions were done to them. You see Madoff did to these titans of Wall Street what the titans of Wall Street have been doing to we, the average American, for lo these 30 years or so: he conned them.
What I resent, however, is the sanctimonious and cynical hand-wrining by his brethren on Wall Street. For well near 30 years now, we the American people have been subjected to the very same actions with the very same effects by countless denizens of that Financial Hades. We are a debtor nation and our economy is in shambles because of the same acts of greediness and heartlessness, the same acts of so-called financial wizardry that rewarded short-term avarice, insubstantial industries, and mendacious corporate heads.
We are told that the "market" prices in all information, that the market is savvy, that it sees six months ahead of the economy's present state. Well, if that were so, then how to explain a recession that already has lasted a year with a bull market that didn't catch up and become "bear" until more than a year after the downturned occurred? Not very persipicacious if you asked me.
We've endured the Internet bubble and the mortgage bubble, the astronomical valuations of corporations that have yet to turn a profit. We watch as the market soars on days when unemployment figures rise by nearly a half-million. We watch stocks go up when corporations post enormous losses because those losses were supposedly "not as bad as the market thought they would be." That's a bit like finding out that a loved one has died, but feeling happy because they were only hit by a truck when they could have been hit by a train.
Wall Street is obsessed with the most recent quarter of profits to the exclusion of that which builds strong companies and industries: long-range planning. This short-term thinking has hijacked the American economy and turned us into impulse financiers, only looking for what satisfies our obese cravings now, even if it will leave us hungry for a long time later.
Madoff is only a symptom of the sickness of the Wall Street Man. The only difference between Madoff and the others of his kind is that instead of relying complicated financial instruments like derivatives to pick our pockets, he did it the old-fashioned way: with a wink and nod.