There was no small amount of irony in the fog that delayed the flights of the Wall Street bankers scheduled to meet with President Obama this morning. For many Americans, this particular band of corporate chieftains has been in a fog about the public’s perception of their recent return to profitability. With most of the nation’s industries still in an economic slump, and millions of jobless citizens unable to earn a living, the billions of dollars these money center banks are scheduled to pay their employees as year-end bonuses have got the average American citizen mad as hell.
Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, Morgan Stanley CEO John Mack, and Citigroup Chairman Richard Parsons were all slated to attend the bankers meeting this morning at the White House, but were delayed because their commercial flights could not take-off due to heavy fog. The CEO’s of American Express, US Bancorp, Capital One, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of New York Mellon, Bank of America, State Street Bank, Morgan Stanley, PNC, and Wells Fargo were also scheduled to be in attendance.
I don’t know what President Obama said to this group this morning. I would imagine, given his history, that Obama attempted to appeal to a sense of honor and duty and moral rectitude to motivate these financiers to more fully participate in our nation’s economic recovery. But the kind of men who run financial services businesses spend so much time thinking about other people’s money -- how to get more of it under management or in their trading coffers, how to make it generate more commissions or more trading profits, and how to convince the people who actually own it to leave it in their care -- that they have very little time left to think about anything else.
For these men, the high flown rhetoric the president likes to rely on to help illustrate the intent of his message are a lot like the marketing spiels their companies spend millions on to convince new customers to bring in more assets.
Bright sunlight and a rise in temperature are usually the conditions needed to burn off a heavy fog. The symbolism of having the nation’s bankers in for a sit-down is a good beginning. Threatening to opening the Federal Reserve’s books, though, might be just what the weatherman ordered to lift the haze and bring some kind of clarity back to our banker’s visions.