Attitude Adjustment

Bloomberg’s Jon Weil offers a helpful perspective on how to think about all these Wall Street goings on, such at the ones considered in the prior post, and the fact that most of the banks and bankers who just drained the Treasury not only get to keep the money; they’re about to start all over again.

Lock up the booze, and hide your wallet. America’s most powerful, too-big-to-fail banks are turning in their TARP money. And you know what that means: It’s party time again on Wall Street.

Ten U.S. banks gained permission this week to buy back $68 billion of shares they issued to the government under the Troubled Asset Relief Program. And thank goodness for that. For eight months, they endured the twin nuisances of mass hysteria and populist scorn for blowing taxpayer money on employee bonuses and junkets. Now they can tell the rest of the country to kiss off. There’s nothing Barney Frank can do about it.

Finally, the richest bankers and traders at Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan Chase can stop asking what their country can do for them, and start dreaming again about what they can do for themselves with their banks’ money. Biking to work is out. Helicopter commutes to the Hamptons will be back in. The opportunities are limitless. They’re free at last.

Pretty good. And a nice reminder if you’re covering, or reading about, the financial crisis of the basic concept that what we’re seeing is not right. Sometimes a little satire goes a long way. And why bother with a stiletto when a meat ax will do?

What these masters of the government rescue need now is a shopping list — a 10-step program to restore their remorseless, reptilian souls and help them rediscover the unique thrill that can come only from being paid millions of dollars to provide services that are of no value to greater mankind. This brings us to our first agenda item:

No. 1: Reinstate the bonuses. Start with the top guys. That means you, Lloyd Blankfein, John Mack and Jamie Dimon. America is back. All we need is a little confidence. And there can be no confidence without the hope, however faint, that one day the son of some unemployed auto worker can grow up to make millions advising his dad’s old company on its next Chapter 11 filing. Just keep repeating this line: We need to retain our best talent, or else we’ll wind up the next AIG.

Read the whole thing. Then get back to work.

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Dean Starkman Dean Starkman runs The Audit, CJR's business section, and is the author of The Watchdog That Didn't Bark: The Financial Crisis and the Disappearance of Investigative Journalism (Columbia University Press, January 2014). Follow Dean on Twitter: @deanstarkman.