David Rothkopf

What happens when Wall Street stops paying off Washington?

Have they no shame? Have they no sense of responsibility? Perhaps by now nothing that Wall Street does ought to shock us. After all, these were the people who told us to trust them with our life fortunes when even they did not know the risks to which they would expose them. These were the ...

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Have they no shame? Have they no sense of responsibility?

Perhaps by now nothing that Wall Street does ought to shock us. After all, these were the people who told us to trust them with our life fortunes when even they did not know the risks to which they would expose them. These were the people who felt it appropriate to game the U.S. economy, force families into the street and then claim big bonuses for their actions. These were the people who told the U.S. government to stay out of their hair … right up until the moment they needed a government handout. A when they didn’t need the cash any more, what’s their response? To kick the people who helped them back to the curb.

Come on, Baby! Didn’t I show you the love when you needed it? Wasn’t I there for you when no one else wanted you? You weren’t so big and powerful then, but I gave you what little I had. I mortgaged everything I had to get you back on your feet. I crawled right into bed with you and held you all night long. And what happens the minute you get a little wind to your back? You’re out the door and you don’t even know my name!

It’s people like this that guarantee there will always be country music, the blues and drunks in bars getting the lyrics wrong while they sink into their beers. You know what I mean, those songs like “You Done Me Wrong” or “I’ll Never Get Over You (Getting Over Me).” Or maybe what I really mean are songs like “Dirty Pool” or “Chain of Fools.” Songs about betrayal and abuse.  Muddy Waters:

Now look what you’ve done

You left me here, the lonely one

And all I could say, is look what you’ve done

A broken heart, a weary mind

And (just for a) few dollars baby, (every) time

I once had a dream, but now I have none

You’ve taken your love and see what it done

Oh sure, I never expected that the princes of Wall Street would actually change their stripes. I’m not talking about disappointment that they are not voluntarily foregoing the big bonuses for a year or two until the country is back on its feet. I’m certainly not suggesting that I ever truly expected them to use government resources to actually start lending again or to really take major steps to keep home owners in their homes. Taking smaller risks? Forswearing complex investment strategies that only benefit them while putting everyone else at greater risk? Expecting that would be like expecting a pride of lions to go vegan and open a nursery school for baby antelopes.

No, I just thought that they would do the right thing in the one way that it is surely in character, that they would say thanks in their own language, the language of money. But here President Obama is hosting a fundraiser tonight in New York City, right in their own backyard, and according to the New York Times, Wall Street is snubbing him, not forking over. In fact, according to the story, Wall Street donations to the Democrats are down since, oh, I don’t know, back when the Democratic controlled Congress and the Democratic President were saving their bacon. 

Apparently,the Masters of the Universe have concluded that the same Dems that bailed them out are now actually considering reforms that might mitigate risk and save the taxpayers for having to dig deep into their wallets to ensure the Wall Streeters could keep sending their kids to Dalton and Spence. And so no more soup for you, Barack. 

Personally, I think they miscalculate. They finally may be undone by their greed. Except it won’t be because they stole too much or blew up the international economy. It’ll be because they stopped paying off the people who set the rules. And nothing puts a politician back in touch with his principles like a failure to keep up payments by the banker to whom he has mortgaged them.

So it is that the bankers of the most consequence at tonight’s fundraiser at the Mandarin in Manhattan won’t be the ones the news crews will be fussing about as they head into the $15,000 a plate gala. Rather they will be the ones who actually who don’t show up … and who, in so doing, “free” the President and the Congress to get aggressive about reforms in the way they should have been all along.

Perhaps that old Muddy Waters tune will go through the president’s head tomorrow as he thinks back on his visit to the big city tonight:

Saw you last night, I was movin’ around

With your new toys, paint the town

But it is ok, keep having your fun

Because someday, you’ll pay for all you’ve done

And if you ask me, it couldn’t happen to a more deserving bunch of guys.

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

 Twitter: @djrothkopf
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