I’ve been recently introduced to the naked capitalism website by fellow blogger Ronni Bennett over at Time Goes By and it has been rewarding beyond my expectations. It’s a website that, as its name implies, lays an intelligent, critical eye on capitalism as it strips the emperor bare. Its reports question and often embarrass billionaire Investors, CEOs and their corporate tentacles, giving us a more realistic picture of “corporate personhood”. There’s also a fascinating animal picture added with each daily submission of their selected links to review, such as this one
The story that caught my eye yesterday may seem small in comparison to bigger events around the world but it serves as a perfect example of why people are out in force at OWS protests across the country and how serious some amongst the top 1% in this country are at crushing every facet of this grass roots movement.
We discover that when Goldman-Sachs chose to become more than an financial investment firm and turned its sights to banking it was subject to the rules and regulations of the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) whereas all banks are encouraged to “help meet the needs of borrowers in all segments of their communities, including low- and moderate-income neighborhoods.” Once they sign on to this agreement the appropriate federal financial supervisory agency will “examine banking institutions for CRA compliance, and take this information into consideration when approving applications for new bank branches or for mergers or acquisitions”.
Goldman did this with a small bank in their New York neighborhood, People’s Bank, where over 80% of its member-owners have low incomes and at least 65% are Latino. Since Goldman was itching to get its greedy hands even deeper into the accounts of everyday people, People’s was a great choice and Goldman was even willing to donate $5000 to help the bank celebrate 25 years at its location.
But herein lies the rub. Goldman-Sachs’ name was on a donation list with a special honoree – Occupy Wall Street. This grass roots movement has labeled one-percenters like Goldman as those who engage in questionable practices that not only widens the income disparity between people like themselves and those member-owners of People’s Bank, but had a direct hand in the economic collapse of 2008 with their bundled credit default swaps that were intentionally sold to unsuspecting investors, knowing full well that the mortgages they insured were destined to default.
When Goldman discovered this affront to them they insisted that People’s return the $5000 donation and threatened litigation and action that could limit the small bank’s ability to receive funds from other wealthier banks to serve their mission. Read the full account about this bowel movement by G-S here.
This incident raised the analogous one for me about the self-centered rich kid who takes his ball (the one his dad paid for) and goes home with it when not allowed to dominate the game. He may discover that some of those playing in the scrimmage are what he views as “undesirables” from another neighborhood. He refuses to play if they are part of it. Everybody else doesn’t necessarily go along with this view but they want to play football, not having one of their own. Besides, the arrogant owner of the ball is a popular jock at school and they want to remain on his good side.
The prevailing tension between these two groups is perpetuated as a result. That’s been the tradition between them for years and the opportunity to smooth ruffled feathers and perhaps foster a more symbiotic relationship is killed because of the prevailing attitude of an elite group.
Yves Smith, who appears to write most of the material for nc feels, and I agree, that Goldman’s reaction to this was vane and just simply mean-spirited.
“This low grade thuggish behavior over a mere $5,000 illustrates how deeply narcissistic Wall Street has become. Anything that threatens their image, no matter how small, must be beaten back. Goldman could have been punitive (by threatening never to do anything for the bank ever again) without going to the ridiculous step of threatening litigation over a charitable contribution. How charitable is it, exactly, when you try to attach retroactive conditions?”
They probably spend $5000 on business lunches routinely. Their self-serving egos however has only brought home what is fundamentally flawed with the socio-economic structure in this country today.
Goldman-Sachs could have come across as someone willing to close the partisan divide between the haves and have-nots by acknowledging their loan as a move in this direction. They could have taken the high road and ignored that a perceived enemy shared the limelight with them. It would’ve been seen by many as a goodwill gesture and disarmed some of their critics who attack them for such arrogance. Surely FOX and many right-wing bloggers and pundits would have elevated this to a sainthood state.
Corporations have worked feverishly to be seen by the courts as a “person”. This incident shows that perhaps being an adult person is asking too much of them. They own the football. Play by their rules and meet their demands or they will make the game all about them and take their ball home.
“It is really not so repulsive to see the poor asking for money as to see the rich asking for more money.” – G.K. Chesterson