The New York Times is going after the financial industry with a vengeance. First came a Times news video headlined "Wall Street Regains Its Swagger." It featured Susanne Craig intoning, "Most of America is still digging out from the credit crisis triggered by Wall Street, which made billions of dollars of risky investments. Many of those trades were real estate-related, and they've since gone sour. As a result, thousands of Americans have lost their homes, and the unemployment rate is currently hovering around 10%."
This is so lacking in nuance or even in basic accuracy as to be silly. I'm not saying that "Wall Street" doesn't bear some of the blame for foreclosures or the high unemployment rate, but there are plenty of other institutions and individuals worth mentioning, from the politicians and government officials in Washington pushing homeownership, to the Federal Reserve that kept mortgage rates low for a long time, to the real estate brokers and mortgage brokers and originators who pushed the homes out there, to the individuals who bought more expensive homes than they should have, to the politicians and government officials who panicked and started seizing private companies, to the politicians who are delaying the recovery by extending unemployment benefits and threatening tax increases...one could go on and on.
Then, Saturday's New York Times op-ed page carried not one but two banker-bashing specials.
A Bob Herbert column asserted, "Recessions are for the little people, not for the corporate chiefs and the titans of Wall Street who are at the heart of the American aristocracy. They have waged economic warfare against everybody else and are winning big time....The corporate fat cats are becoming alarmingly rotund."
Mr. Herbert writes, "Societal conflicts metastasize as resentments fester and scapegoats are sought....You can almost feel the bitterness rising."
Mr. Herbert is writing about himself. He's the bitter-sounding one scapegoating "corporate fat cats." Again, it's not even accurate; Goldman Sachs's Lloyd Blankfein's 2008 compensation dropped 98.4% from the year before, and Citigroup's Vikram Pandit earned $1 a year in both 2010 and 2011, hardly recession-proof. Aristocracy? Mr. Blankfein, the son of a postal worker, went to college on a scholarship, while Mr. Pandit came to America from India at age 16.
The second Times op-ed page anti-Wall Street screed comes from William Cohan, who complains, "America cannot seem to shake its infatuation with Wall Street bankers and traders. We continue to shower them with riches, prestige and glory." He asks, "will we have the courage to return Wall Street to a less exalted place?" I'm not sure what "prestige and glory" Mr. Cohan is talking about, because whatever it is that the Times is showering on Wall Street bankers and traders, it sure doesn't look to me like prestige and glory.