The Worthiness of Banker Charity

"Repent," the preacher cried out, startling those who heard him.

This was no street evangelist ranting at the passing crowd, but the
archbishop of Canterbury, head of the Church of England. His sharp
admonition was pointed directly at a particular set of sinners, who
undoubtedly had never given any thought to the morality of their
actions: the barons of global banking.

As in our country, people in Europe are enraged at those hustlers of high finance
who wrecked the world's economies, then flexed their political muscle
to get governments to replenish their bankrupt vaults. Infuriatingly,
these bailed-out bankers have now returned to business as usual,
including grabbing monstrous bonus payments for themselves.

In Europe, such greed is not only being assailed politically, but it
is also being cast as a matter of fundamental moral failure. As another
of Britain's leading clergymen put it, "There is a general feeling that
the level of bonuses we've seen have been obscene."

While top executives of Barclays, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs and other big investment
houses were initially puzzled and hurt by the public's moral outrage,
their audacious sense of personal worth and entitlement quickly kicked
back in. So Europeans are now witnessing the spectacle of bankers
draping themselves in radiant robes of ethical purity.

"Profit is not satanic," the CEO of Barclays recently proclaimed.
"Size is not necessarily evil," asserted the head of Deutsche Bank.

But leave it to Lloyd Blankfein, CEO of Goldman Sachs (and the
world's highest-paid banker - $68 million in 2007 alone) to combine
self-pity with self-adulation in a grandiose PR effort to reposition financial
thieves as paragons of social altruism. "I know I could slit my writs
and people would cheer," he acknowledged in an interview published Nov.
8 in London's Sunday Times. But, he said of himself and his big banking
brethren," We're very important.

We help companies to grow by helping them to raise capital.
Companies that create more growth and more wealth. This, in turn,
allows people to have jobs that create more growth and more wealth.
It's a virtuous cycle."

And, just in case you missed the message of Blankfein's morality
tale, he concluded by portraying himself as a mere banker "doing God's

Wow. What a wrathful god he must worship!

One wonders - has Lord Blankfein even read about, much less visited,
any of the millions of Americans who are out of work or out of business
because of the financial schemes and scams that he and his peers
conjured up? Who does he think he's fooling? Far from investing
capital (including the trillions of dollars they took from us
taxpayers) in companies and jobs, these financial whizzes continue to
throw it into the global craps game of debt swaps and other speculative
nonsense. The game enriches them and their super-wealthy clients, but
it creates nothing whatsoever of social value.

Nonetheless, this clueless clique is actually claiming that we
commoners should be applauding the return of their multimillion-dollar
bonus bonanzas. Why? Because, they aver, the rich payouts allow them to
contribute to charity.

Such narcissism reminds me of a story about a selfish, no-good rich
man who died and tried to get into heaven. But you can't just walk
through the Pearly Gates. An angel reviews your life, then St. Peter
decides if you can enter. To counter the angel's negative review, the
rich man argued that he had a history of charitable giving. He'd once
tossed a nickel into a beggar's cup, he pointed out. Plus, some years
later, he had aided a poor woman by giving her a nickel. Then there was
the time he put a nickel into the Salvation Army kettle.

Hearing all this, the angel turned to St. Peter and asked, "What in
the world should we do with this man?" And St. Peter said, "Give him
back his 15 cents, and tell him to go to hell!"

Now that's a story that these big banksters need to hear - and ponder.

© 2023 Jim Hightower