The Observer on the Roots of Wall Street’s Obama Rage

Max Abelson has a fun story in The New York Observer on the roots of Obama rage on Wall Street. It’s not that he’s done anything to them. He really hasn’t. He’s just talked mean a time or two. And they’re highly offended. Nobody talks about masters of the universe like that!

Here’s the best quote, from a senior Wall Street executive:

“He went on 60 Minutes and said ‘fat cat bankers,’” one of the four senior executives The Observer talked to complained. “He didn’t say Dick Fuld or Ken Lewis, he just said ‘fat cat bankers.’ Meaning all bankers are fat cats. And we have over one million bankers in this country. And they’re all taxpayers.” That interview was in late December, after the year’s huge bonuses were announced. Later on in the interview, the executive, who watched the CNBC town hall but, exasperated, had to turn the sound off after five minutes, came back to the slur. “He just said that we are all fat cats! All of Wall Street! He said ‘fat cat bankers.’ He said ‘fat cat,’ he’s doing name calling, stereotyping, which is pretty amazing.”

Mr. Senior Wall Street Executive is really hung up on “fat cat.” What an outrage! Here’s Merriam-Webster on the definition: “a wealthy and privileged person.” No stretch there then. And the government has bailed you out while letting the homeowners, whose screwing you financed, twist in the wind.

Abelson points out how out of it this reaction is:

What has happened to Wall Street under Obama, though, has not been bad at all. But never mind the death of the Brown-Kaufman amendment, which would have limited the size of the nation’s mega-banks; or the softened Volcker Rule; or Goldman Sachs’ record 2009, followed by a quarter this year when Bank of America, Citigroup, Goldman and JPMorgan made a trading profit every single day; let alone the administration’s satisfaction with the new Basel III rules on leverage and capital ratios, which were much laxer than they would have been without the banks’ massive global lobbying effort.

Imagine if he’d called them “malefactors of great wealth”!

He gets another great quote here:

“We’ve been ostracized,” another source said. “I went to jury duty about a year ago, and when I said I’m in investment banking, the people in the jury room were making ugh sounds, and I’m like, fuck you. I’m proud of what I do. And I think this firm did a lot to get the recovery going. Somewhere ranked below a pimp and well operator is not right.”

Let’s point out that this ostracization is hardly because of anything the president has said. The people came to that on their own when they saw Washington bend over backward to bail out the Street—which caused the financial crisis after all—and impose little to no consequences. Also, what’s wrong with well operators? You guys finance them, too.

And then there’s the blackmail thing: Be nice to us or we’ll sit on our money! That’s the biggest load of horse puckey here.

“He’s pissing on us and Wall Street and bankers and capitalism; then we have gotten afraid,” the executive who turned CNBC on mute said. “We then are not investing in maybe what we should invest in.”

Wall Street is motivated by one thing: greed. If there’s money to be made, you can piss on them all you want. While you’re aiming, they’ll be figuring how to corner the market in diuretics.

Good piece in a series on How Wall Street Thinks by Abelson and the Observer.

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Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum.