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« Fact for the Day | Main | Steve on Barack »

October 29, 2008

Payouts

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Newsweek runs a fun photo-feature about recent business admirals who have led their companies into ruin -- and the gigantic salaries and payouts that they received nevertheless. Wasn't it commenter Dearieme who wrote that what these CEOs should have done was to apologize to their families and to society at large, and then commit hara-kiri?

Among the bastards, who's your fave bastard? Mine is Alan Fishman of Washington Mutual, who had been on the job for only 13 days when the feds shut his company down. Fishman's compensation for his brief tenure? Nearly $13 million -- a million smackeroos a day. And people complain about how much movie stars and sports heroes are paid ...

Somewhat related: As the world economy caves in around us, the collapse in late 2001 of the Enron Corporation is starting to look a little unimpressive in retrospect. Still, it was a Very Big Event at the time. One of the biggest corporate failures in history, Enron's demise also brought down the Arthur Andersen accounting firm, and it left more than 20,000 employees out of work, many of them with their retirement accounts devastated.

This is just a quick note to recommend the documentary "Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room," directed by Alex Gibney and based on a book by Fortune reporters Bethany McLean and Peter Elkin. The general story is well told, though for details about how the many bookkeeping stunts and shell-games were performed you'll need to go to the book. Movies aren't great for delivering accounts about accounting fraud, after all.

But what makes the movie special is two things: Its portraits of some of Enron's swindling execs (Jeff Skilling -- what a character!); and the many, many instances of video and audio showing what creeps many at Enron were. Andy Fastow's pitch to Merrill Lynch is a gem, and a number of smug and triumphant phone conversations between Enron traders as they manipulated and swindled the people of California (remember the California energy shortage?) make you want to wring throats.

I sometimes think of myself as a seen-too-much cynic, but the naked, fuck-everyone-else greed that's revealed in closeup by this film made me feel like an easily-shocked baby all over again. My god, there really are people in this world who have nothing but money on their minds, and who will do almost anything to get ever more of it!

But I'm in the mood to end this blogposting on a positive note. So, because we could all use some silliness and high spirits in the midst of what feels like a dark and rocky season, here's Joey Dee and the Starliters shaking to "Peppermint Twist":

Dance!

Best,

Michael

posted by Michael at October 29, 2008




Comments

I guess this why I just don't get it. The whole point of the Obama campaign, and the hopes of his supporters, is to try and put an this kind of tomfoolery. There's nothing wrong with a capitalistic, market economy. But, when these kinds of shenanigans occur AND a significant percentage of the employees of these companies go without health care there's something very seriously flawed with the system in place.

But, if you say that...if you suggest that perhaps these super rich CEOs should have to give up a portion of these unearned riches so as to ensure all of the wage slaves working for them can have health insurance...you're called a socialist. Granted, it's typically from some moron who doesn't understand what socialism is...like McCain and his party. But, it still resonates with an equally ignorant constituency too blind to see that the people they support wouldn't even spit on them to put them out if they were on fire.

Believing in a free market AND believing everyone should have an opportunity to play in it are not mutually exclusive. I do believe that having the rules rigged so that a statistically insignificant portion of the population are the only ones that win is essentially a redistributive monetary policy...it just redistributes UP from the poor to the rich. An economy cannot sustain with a steady flow in one direction and still be considered free and open.

Posted by: Upstate Guy on October 30, 2008 7:23 AM



My favorite bastard is Fannie Mae CEO, Franklin Raines. Raines looted Fannie Mae, ran it into the ground and walked away with $100 million!

And, he became housing advisor to the Obama campaign until the Obamas realized the he was an embarassment.

You could phrase the current election thus: McCain, dutiful son of a family of dutiful naval officers. SUCKER! Obama, race hustler offering a bag of goodies to every con artist with a grudge. SAVIOR!

I sometimes wonder whether the welfare scam mentality of so many blacks is triumphing in this election. Perhaps this mentality will overwhelm the guilt-ridden dutiful nature of white society. And, sometimes I think, maybe this ain't so bad.

In Woodstock, among the hip, black worship is common and few make any pretense about why: to be black is to not give a damn, to live off the fat of the land and to acknowledge that all of life is a con game. Why be a square?

Isn't the great hero of hip-hop the pimp?

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on October 30, 2008 7:31 AM



I'm a former libertarian, but I must admit that my wish is for the US to develop a system of true universal health care coverage, and to provide some kind of protection for retirement accounts...instead of failed investment houses.

Problem is: rent seekers are running the house. They've got the country by the testicular formations, and prying them loose from their hold on America's collective short and curlies is going to be an accomplishment.

Wonder if the big O is up to it?

Posted by: PatrickH on October 30, 2008 10:09 AM



"But, if you say that...if you suggest that perhaps these super rich CEOs should have to give up a portion of these unearned riches so as to ensure all of the wage slaves working for them can have health insurance...you're called a socialist."

Bingo!

Something basic to the functioning of our society has been ruptured by this massive rip-off.

I'm not exactly an adovcate or fan of nationalized health care.

But, it looks to me that the new rule is: Only suckers play by the rules.

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on October 30, 2008 10:14 AM



My favorite isn't a recent one, but Barry Minkow of ZZZZ Best. While he has his own book, Burton Malkiel's "A Random Walk Down Wall Street" summarizes his rise and fall rather well. I guess he's my favorite because of the sheer size of the cahones he displayed in taking his company public, showing how easy it is to game the system when you have incompetent accountants and backers.

Posted by: Chrees on October 30, 2008 4:28 PM



PatrickH: Problem is: rent seekers are running the house. They've got the country by the testicular formations, and prying them loose from their hold on America's collective short and curlies is going to be an accomplishment.

Wonder if the big O is up to it?

If them-that-has thought for a minute that O was up to thwarting their rent-seeking, he wouldn't be where he is right now. (Goldman Sachsters don't contribute heavily to campaigns because they're abjectly begging for some tough love.) McCain pretends (or actually believes) that we have a free market, not crony capitalism, and Obama will pretend that instituting a few more (corrupt, bureaucratically metastazing) redistributive programs will mean that all those (strictly rethuglican, of course) plutocrats have been put on the run.

Sprinkled around my cul-de-sac are both Obama/Biden and McCain/Palin yard signs. I had to tell my daughter that, yes, it would not be acceptable to put out her preferred homemade "We're Boned '08" signs. Much as I endorse the sentiment.

Posted by: Moira Breen on October 30, 2008 6:44 PM



Moira - You should relent and let your daughter put up the signs. Truth from the young is to be supported. Sometimes propriety needs to take a back seat to honesty.

Posted by: Chris White on October 30, 2008 11:15 PM



What I don't get is why we aren't hearing about the murder of these executives by angry retirees.

My grandmother spoke of the aged persons' tendency toward nonviolence in terms of karma and the afterlife, but I don't know if that's her projection or her motivation for inaction.

Then again she may have a bunch of gold stashed somewhere...

Posted by: Ed from Malabar on October 31, 2008 4:17 AM



We're Boned '08. Ain't that the truth?

I was being a least partly sarcastic, fair Moira, disdainer of men with puppy dog eyes (woof?). The Big O isn't going to bite the hands that have fed him and will be feeding him...unless he has to.

And who's going to be able to make the God Emperor of Earth do anything, anyway? At least for his first two years...nobody.

Posted by: PatrickH on October 31, 2008 9:23 AM



Moira:

"Metastasizing". What a perfect word to describe new federal programs. I love it!

Posted by: Bill on October 31, 2008 12:53 PM



Chris White: You should relent and let your daughter put up the signs. Truth from the young is to be supported. Sometimes propriety needs to take a back seat to honesty.

Time and a place for everything, Chris. Honesty doesn't require the incivility of using crude language in yard signs. That would show a lack of respect for one's neighbors. There's enough of that abroad in the land already, thank you very much. A well-bred person judiciously and effectively wields crude, vulgar language only in its proper venues. For example, in bringing down the tone of the comments section of some other mofo's blog.

Ed from Malabar: What I don't get is why we aren't hearing about the murder of these executives by angry retirees.

They're not hungry enough yet. Give 'em time.

Bill: "Metastasizing". What a perfect word to describe new federal programs. I love it!

I admire the great tact you display in correcting my crappy spelling. Smoove!

Padraig P-dog: The Big O isn't going to bite the hands that have fed him and will be feeding him...unless he has to.

Never underestimate the unleashed rage of hungry retirees, O-man. They're old, they're hungry, and they got nothin' to lose!

Posted by: Moira Breen on November 1, 2008 12:10 PM






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