You might think that running a Wall Street firm should disqualify you from giving advice on the finances of the government of the United States.
After all, it's been just four years since the captains of capitalism slammed their unsinkables into the iceberg and had to be rescued by a flotilla of taxpayer dollars. Who would appoint one of these Wall Street guys as the navigator of our ship of state?
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The answer to that inquiry is, of course: the Wall Street guys would. If their self-regard ever faltered for a moment, the moment was too brief to be noticed. For quite some time, the captains have been polishing the brass buttons on their uniform and talking again like they were masters of the high seas.
Tomorrow the chief executive of Goldman Sachs, Lloyd Blankfein, is going to have a meeting with the chief executive of the United States, Barack Obama. He is among about a dozen top U.S. CEOs, including General Electric's Jeff Immelt, Aetna's Mark Bertolini, American Express' Ken Chenault and Dow Chemical's Andrew Liveris, who will be there as well, apparently members of something called the Campaign to Fix the Debt.
Presumably it will be a polite meeting, with everybody properly chiefly and executively. No one will point out that we don't really need to 'fix the debt' at all. In fact, debt may be one of the few things really working in Washington DC these days. At least, that's what the market tells us whenever the world appears to be a bit too dangerous and investors clamber into the life rafts of U.S. Treasury bonds.
The purpose of the meeting is allegedly to put pressure on Congress to raise taxes on the wealthy while extending tax cuts for middle-income Americans. If playing the part of a pawn in politics strikes you as an odd way for a chief executive to spend his or her time, you just haven't been paying attention to anything at all for the last several years.
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Following the White House meeting, Blankfein and others will meet with Republican Congressional leaders. This is important because being a chief executive in a time of divided government requires that you play the part of a pawn for both sides of the board.
Far be it from me to suggest that Blankfein has any cynical or self-aggrandizing motivation for suggesting on CBS recently that its "just logical" that the government's revenue burdens will disproportionately fall on the wealthier people. I am sure that Goldman has absolutely no plans to offer its clients tax-sheltered investment vehicles to help avoid those falling burdens.
Ahoy, my fellow passengers. Prepare to set sail.
- by CNBC Senior Editor John Carney
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