Paul Krugman's piece, Panic of the Plutocrats, highlights one distinction that I think many people have forgotten – there's a difference between business in the "Main Street" sense and business in the "Wall Street" sense:
What’s going on here? The answer, surely, is that Wall Street’s Masters of the Universe realize, deep down, how morally indefensible their position is. They’re not John Galt; they’re not even Steve Jobs. They’re people who got rich by peddling complex financial schemes that, far from delivering clear benefits to the American people, helped push us into a crisis whose aftereffects continue to blight the lives of tens of millions of their fellow citizens.
Yet they have paid no price. Their institutions were bailed out by taxpayers, with few strings attached. They continue to benefit from explicit and implicit federal guarantees — basically, they’re still in a game of heads they win, tails taxpayers lose. And they benefit from tax loopholes that in many cases have people with multimillion-dollar incomes paying lower rates than middle-class families.
Listen, I get it that we need finance. We need people who can provide capital to the Main Street businesses, and I think there are plenty of fine people working in the financial sector, but just like there are crooks and scam artists working on Main Street there are also crooks and scam artists working on Wall Street. Even if we didn't already have plenty of stories showing that the Wall Street scammers filled their personal vaults while barbequing our Golden Goose, I think the incessant screeching like that currently emanating from halls of power would cause us to say, "The lady (aka the Whining 1%) doth protest too much."
On Sunday my daughter's soccer team was playing in a tournament in High Point. While the girls were warming up I was standing on the side of the field near three men I didn't know, who were obviously fathers of players from one of the other teams at the complex. I wasn't paying any attention to them until one of them raised his voice and said, "You're joking, but it ain't funny. I'm telling you that if we wanted to build a church in Saudi Arabia near Mecca they wouldn't let us. That's what I'm saying; it ain't right that they can come here and build a mosque by the place where 3,000 Americans perished, but they wouldn't let us do it there." (The quote may not be exact, but it's very close).
I wanted to turn around and look at him, but I had girls to help coach and I didn't want to waste my time on him. Still, his statement stuck with me and when I had a chance to think about it I couldn't help thinking about what I would have said if he was talking to me. To wit:
- Last I heard it wasn't a mosque, it was a cultural center. It's not right at Ground Zero, but a couple of blocks away. You ever been to New York? Being a couple of blocks away is liking being to canyons over in Utah. Maybe none of that makes a difference to you, but I think it would help your argument if you actually got the details straight.
- Um, why would we want to be like Saudi Arabia. I kind of prefer our little ol' nation built on the concept of free speech, separation of church and state, freedom to call our leaders names, etc. Why would you compare us to Saudi Arabia? Is Saudi Arabia the entity behind the cultural center? Oh, and on a somewhat related note, were only Christians killed on 9/11?
- Another reason I love our country: I know I disagree with you (if I'm gonna be honest I'll have to say that I think you're a Glenn Beck sycophant who hasn't thought for himself since kindergarten) and I'm pretty sure you'd disagree with me (actually you'd probably think I'm a liberal wuss who would bend over and kiss Osama's behind), but that's OK because we're Americans. We're supposed to be able to think about each other like that, and truth be told, we could probably have a cold beer and laugh about it later.
Is this a great country or what?