As President Obama spreads his New Testament balm over the capital, I’m longing for a bit of Old Testament wrath.
Couldn’t he throw down his BlackBerry tablet and smash it in anger over the feckless financiers, the gods of gold and their idols — in this case not a gilt calf but an $87,000 area rug, a cache of diamond Tiffany and Cartier watches and a French-made luxury corporate jet?
Now that we’re nationalizing, couldn’t we fire any obtuse bankers and auto executives who cling to perks and bonuses even as the economy is following John Thain down his antique commode?
How could Citigroup be so dumb as to go ahead with plans to get a new $50 million corporate jet, the exclusive Dassault Falcon 7X seating 12, after losing $28.5 billion in the past 15 months and receiving $345 billion in government investments and guarantees?
(Now I get why a $400 payment I recently sent to pay off my Citibank Visa was mistakenly applied to my sister-in-law’s Citibank Mastercard account.)
The “Citiboobs” — as The New York Post, which broke the news, calls them — watched as the car chieftains got in trouble for flying their private jets to Washington to ask for bailouts, and the A.I.G. moguls got dragged before Congress for spending their bailout on California spa treatments. But the boobs still didn’t get the message.
The former masters of the universe don’t seem to fully comprehend that their universe has crumbled and, thanks to them, so has ours. Real people are losing real jobs at Caterpillar, Home Depot and Sprint Nextel; these and other companies announced on Monday that they would cut more than 75,000 jobs in the U.S. and around the world, as consumer confidence and home prices swan-dived.
Prodded by an appalled Senator Carl Levin, Tim Geithner — even as he was being confirmed as Treasury secretary — directed Treasury officials to call the Citiboobs and tell them the new jet would not fly.
“They woke up pretty quickly,” says a Treasury official, adding that they protested for a bit. “Six months ago, they would have kept the plane and flown it to Washington.”
Senator Levin said that the financiers will not be able to change their warped mentality, but will have to be reined in by Geithner’s new leashes. “I have no confidence that they intend or desire to change,” Levin told me. “These bankers got away with murder, and it’s obscene that close to nothing is being asked of financial institutions. I get incensed at the thought that a bank that’s getting billions of dollars in taxpayer money is out there buying fancy new airplanes.”
New York’s attorney general, Andrew Cuomo, always gratifying on the issue of clawing back money from the greedy creeps on Wall Street, on Tuesday subpoenaed Thain, the former Merrill Lynch chief executive, over $4 billion in bonuses he handed out as the failing firm was bought by Bank of America.
In an interview with Maria Bartiromo on CNBC, Thain used the specious, contemptible reasoning that other executives use to rationalize why they’re keeping their bonuses as profits are plunging.
“If you don’t pay your best people, you will destroy your franchise” and they’ll go elsewhere, he said.
Hello? They destroyed the franchise. Let’s call their bluff. Let’s see what a great job market it is for the geniuses of capitalism who lost $15 billion in three months and helped usher in socialism.
Bartiromo also asked Thain to explain, when jobs and salaries were being cut at his firm, how he could justify spending $1 million to renovate his office. As The Daily Beast and CNBC reported, big-ticket items included curtains for $28,000, a pair of chairs for $87,000, fabric for a “Roman Shade” for $11,000, Regency chairs for $24,000, six wall sconces for $2,700, a $13,000 chandelier in the private dining room and six dining chairs for $37,000, a “custom coffee table” for $16,000, an antique commode “on legs” for $35,000, and a $1,400 “parchment waste can.”
Does that mean you can only throw used parchment in it or is it made of parchment? It’s psychopathic to spend a million redoing your office when the folks outside it are losing jobs, homes, pensions and savings.
Thain should never rise above the level of stocking the money in A.T.M.’s again. Just think: This guy could well have been Treasury secretary if John McCain had won.
Bartiromo pressed: What was wrong with the office of his predecessor, Stanley O’Neal?
“Well — his office was very different — than — the — the general décor of — Merrill’s offices,” Thain replied. “It really would have been — very difficult — for — me to use it in the form that it was in.”
Did it have a desk and a phone?
How are these ruthless, careless ghouls who murdered the economy still walking around (not to mention that sociopathic sadist Bernie Madoff?) — and not as perps?
Bring on the shackles. Let the show trials begin.