OK. I know “ethics” is a stopper. Nobody wants to read about that. But since I’m not generating much income or advertising revenue from this blog, I’ll continue to write about it anyway. Even though ethics has no currency these days in Washington, on Wall Street and most other places.
What got me thinking about ethics was a story I read in the Wall Street Journal online (by subscription only) this morning before my running shoes hit the concrete. Apparently Citigroup is considering trying to break its $400 million deal for the naming rights to the Mets’ new ballpark. Even in the best of economic times this kind of branding exercise doesn’t make sense to me. Still, people a lot more savvy in these matters than I am must think it’s a good investment: Progressive Field, the Q, Enron Stadium (oops), Heinz Field and so on. But considering that Citi helped to crash the world’s economy and has elminiated thousands of jobs something here doesn’t pass the smell test. In fact, this stinks.
But I really don’t believe that Citi management is reconsidering on the basis that taking the name off the stadium would be “the right thing to do.” Rather, they don’t want to have to explain this (and other matters like corporate jets, bonuses, $87,000 office rugs and so on) to people on Main Street and to the members of Congress who really should be doing more than letting the Wizards of Wall Street shake the federal money tree. Note to Wizards: Try acting responsibly, with a sense of ethics. It’s not that hard. Millions of people do it every day right here in the USA. They pay their taxes too. I digress.
So let the games begin. Next week Citi chief Vikram Pandit and the CEOs of other banks (now wards of the taxpayers) will make a command appearance before Congressman Barney Frank and his Financial Services Committee. Partly the Wizards are expected to explain what they have done with the bailout money — and why they aren’t lending more of it to businesses, homeowners and so on. As the CEOs head up to the plate, expect Frank to at least throw a few fastballs high and inside. He hasn’t been all that thrilled with the bailout plan thus far. And being from Massachusetts, he probably isn’t much of a Mets fan. And second note to Wizards: Fly commercial.
Gee, wouldn’t it be easier just to act responsibly? And if the banking chiefs really want to dabble in branding, I have a suggestion. Let’s give them a scarlet D: Douche bag. They could wear that to the congressional hearing next week — with pride.
And, if you want a preview of the type of questions Pandit and others will field next week, read Eugene Robinson’s column in the Washington Post this morning, “Idiots of the Universe.”
Earth to Wall Street: It’s over, people. You had a terrific run, better than you deserved, but now you’d be wise to pay attention to those citizens outside, the ones with the pitchforks and the torches.
Wow. Pitchforks and torches. Wonder if the committee hearing next week will be on Cspan?
And talking about congressional hearings, I guess Tom Daschle will eventually be confirmed as the new Health Czar. His friends in the Senate will have to rough him up a little though. When it comes to not paying taxes these days, I guess all you have to do is say, “My bad.” Regardless of outcome, it’s good theatre. Like the Frank committee hearing.
But the question is this. Should Daschle take the ethical high road and withdraw his nomination? He didn’t report a substantial amount of income or pay taxes on it. But equally disturbing is the amazing amount of money — some through relationships with people in the industry he would be charged with overseeing — he made after the voters in South Dakota fired him from his Senate gig.
Here’s Emily Yoffe writing in The Washington Post, “Taxes? Too Busy, Busy, Busy!“:
Like many Americans whose steady, reliable job has suddenly disappeared, Thomas Daschle cobbled together a bunch of gigs when he was laid off in 2004 by the people of South Dakota after more than two decades of representing them in Congress.
There was the day job at the law firm Alston & Bird that must have been blessedly free of the kind of dull legal minutiae that make up many a billable hour, since Daschle is not a lawyer. That paid $2.1 million over the past two years. The consulting position at InterMedia Advisors, a private equity firm, paid him $1 million a year. A senior partner there told The Post that Daschle did “a lot of helpful work,” which he declined to enumerate. A stream of speeches to businesses that had business with the government earned Daschle $500,000 during the past two years. There were directorships on several boards — BP Corp. alone paid him $250,000. As practitioners of Bokononism, the religion created by Kurt Vonnegut in the book “Cat’s Cradle,” like to say when contemplating the complicated machinery of life: “Busy, busy, busy.”
And this is the guy who is going to get us to national health care. Hoot!
I know that is how the game is played Inside the Beltway.
Pitchforks and torches, anyone?