Buried in this morning's Times story about the re-branding of financial institutions is a choice bit of anecdotage from a meeting with banking chiefs last month down at the White House. Apparently Larry Summers was lecturing everyone about how they didn't understand "the depth" of public anger, as though he has any grasp what human emotions feel like, and when he came out with a line about how "the financial system used to be seen as a positive asset to the United States," Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein snapped:
"Well, tell us, Larry, when was that golden era?" Mr. Blankfein responded, according to three people who attended the Financial Services Forum meeting. "Was it 1954? Was it 1927?"
Our first thought about this was, naturally: Check out Goldman-sassy! That's how you get to talk to White House officials when you basically run the world. But then we realized that Lloyd was probably not coming from a place of impatience so much as a place of hurt.
Because he is totally right. The coverage of the "vilification" of bankers makes it sound like something new, but the fact is, people have always hated bankers. Shakespeare hated them and Dickens and Frank Capra, and probably the Early Men whose caves were repossessed by these usurious bastards after they spent all of their shiny rocks fixing the place up. We hated bankers when times were good and they were barfing up their bottle service in the streets and now we hate them because they're not doing it anymore. Poor Lloyd was probably even hated back on the playground, when he was just a little zygote banker. Life for him must really be a personal hell in many respects, except for the fact that he has a soft pillow of money on which to lay his head at night.