This American Life, the National Public Radio show that documents contemporary U.S. realities through personal stories, gave us an episode on whiners Friday. Slate conservative politics reporter and former Washington Independent writer Dave Weigel talks about Christine O’Donnell, the anti-masturbation Tea Party candidate for U.S. Senate in Delaware. She turned media reporting on her sketchy campaign financial management record into windfall donations by whining that the media was trading in personal attacks on her because she’s a Christian. Ka-ching!
Better even is the next segment, in which Planet Money economics correspondent Adam Davidson talks about entitled Wall Street culture, where the country’s bailout bonus kings weep and moan about what the government has done to them.
Davidson is no socialist but he has been around. He has spent time reporting from Iraq and from Haiti. People who lost everything and who are living in tent cities in Port-au-Prince whine less than these guys, he says. The Wall Streeters remind him most of the high-level self-pitying Baathists of the Saddam Hussein regime he met and whom he says lived high on the back of the people for decades and can’t believe their misfortune now that their great run at the trough has ended.
“It feels very similar when I’m talking to people on Wall Street, this self pity combined with a total lack of self reflection about how they had been such massive beneficiaries of a system that ended up being so bad for the country…
“You know almost every big bank you can name, with the possible exception pf J.P. Morgan Chase, would not exist today, would have failed, if it wasn’t for the government. They are growing quickly and making record profits, huge bonuses. By some counts, this year will be the biggest bonus year on Wall Street, and last year was bigger than any year before…
Their businesses failed and something that they always say that they’re against, government intervention, rescued them, made them get the opposite of what you’re supposed to get in the capitalist economy: rewarded instead of punished for bad risk management. Instead, I can not think of a single thing I’ve heard in the media or that I have directly heard that expresses any– any– gratitude.”
Davidson meets some Wall Street guys at the Pound and Pence bar across from the Federal Reserve for a drink and to talk about the bailout. Upshot: Taxpayers will never be thanked by the smartest guys in the room. It doesn’t work like that.
Weigel segment is 6 minutes. The Wall Street is 14 minutes. Turn off your phone and refill your coffee. It’s worth it.
[Image: Stephen Schwarzman, head of the major bailout baby the Blackstone Group ]