In every major-league press box, before every baseball game, an announcement is made to the effect that, “This is a working press box.” In other words, no cheering in the press box. I am continuously astounded by the extent to which this rule is soaked in kerosene and lit afire by the people who report on Wall Street. Most of them missed the whole thing when the system crashed in 2008, after spending two decades cheering the philosophy behind the creation of the economic land mines that nearly brought it down. Imagine the appeal to these people of a storyline of the Embattled Wealthy, prisoners in their own offices, just trying to be Job Creators while the unwashed hordes screech at them from below. Now that’s entertainment.
And, sadly, I suspect that the rest of the media may well fall in line. They’ve spent years ignoring the yawning income inequality that is swallowing the middle class. (Forget the actual poor. They might as well be living on Mars.) They’ve spent years dodging the question of why that came about. They’ve spent years balancing themselves on the head of a pin rather than admit that they’ve helped enable the politicians that created this mess and who are today standing athwart any serious effort to solve it.
But something is shifting in the country, which makes even Geithner’s strange bemusement worth noting. Before taking the Hill today, he said this:
And they react to what is pretty modest, common-sense observations about the system as if they’re deep affronts to the dignity of their profession. And I don’t understand why they’re so sensitive.
I suspect he’s bullshitting here just a tad. He knows good and well “why they’re so sensitive.” He spent several frantic weeks in 2008 jawboning these same people into not letting the entire world economy slide into the abyss. He knows their greed. He knows their arrogance. He knows better than most people the Masters-of-the-Universe mentality that pervades the industry that now sees itself under assault from the lesser beings who are just trying to get by. Hell, he probably has had moments in his life where it overcame him. And he knows good and goddamn well that the flip side of that arrogance is opulent self-pity, and a well-cosseted disregard for any real sense of accountability. (The foreclosure fraud industry itself is enough to make an intemperate mind yearn for a general adoption of the ancient Japanese solution for criminal failure.) Their solution for the problem of what happened when they broke the rules is to take enough money from the rest of us so that they can break the rules again. This is because the rules are not for them. Better than most people, even better than most of the people sleeping in the park, or waking this morning in a cell with the Mace still stinging in their eyes, Timothy Geithner knows the names of the criminals and the nature of their crimes. His little talk yesterday, followed by some pretty honest talk before the House and Senate today, sounds like the first baby-steps of public self-awareness. Whether he keeps moving along that road, and whether the president he serves follows him, will be the ultimate measure of both men. Which side are you on is not a question idly answered.