Sunday, April 12, 2009


Frank Rich today:'s hardly a given that the entrenched money culture has evaporated along with the paper profits it generated. One skeptic is Howard Gardner, the Harvard education professor who has created seminars at several elite colleges to counsel students in the notion of pursuing meaningful, ethical and effective work -- "Good Work," as he has titled it. He believes that many students may still be operating on the assumption that the world of finance will just pick up where it left off in a few years. "But we're not going to be back there," Gardner told me last week, "and we shouldn't be back there."

Well, it's not just students. It appears, according to the front page of Rich's paper, that a lot of current Masters of the Universe think the world of finance will pick up where it left off just by shifting a bit:

... There is an air of exodus on Wall Street -- and not just among those being fired. As Washington cracks down on compensation and tightens regulation of banks, a brain drain is occurring at some of the biggest ones....

Top bankers have been leaving Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Citigroup and others in rising numbers to join banks that do not face tighter regulation, including foreign banks, or start-up companies eager to build themselves into tomorrow's financial powerhouses....

Sensing a shifting tide, talented bankers who fear a dimmer future at banks that have taken taxpayer money are migrating to brash boutique firms like Aladdin, which are intent on proving their critics wrong by chasing fast profits and growth in hopes of one day rising up as challengers to the old guard....

Meet the new bubble makers? Same as the old bubble makers? Um, wasn't the point that we were going to regulate effectively to make sure the next bubble economy couldn't develop, and do it globally? What happened to that?

More from Frank Rich:

[Gardner] notes that while the New Deal was built from ideas developed in the Progressive Era and that the Reagan counterrevolution was the culmination of the conservative movement of the 1950s and '60s, there is as yet "no counternarrative to replace 'money is king.'"

The thing is, Barack Obama does have some sort of vision -- of an America that actually makes and sells things, particularly things that are greener than what they'd replace. But any moves he wants to make to get us closer to that future are derided as expensive by centrist politicians and pundits -- and, of course, as fascist by the right. He needs to start using JFK moon-shot language to talk about these ideas. And, meanwhile, we need to regulate the hell out of the ex-Masters of the Universe -- on an international basis. Everything those bastards do turns into a crash eventually.

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