Economy of Losers

Evan Newmark writes a regular column on the WSJ’s Deal Journal. His stock in trade is contrarian takes on the markets and politics. To the extent that he represents an extreme version of the Wall Street world view, he’s a bellwether.

Yesterday, he may have run the bell a bit too hard. In a post explaining why Goldman Sachs has nothing to apologize for–a completely legitimate position that can be debated with great nuance from both sides–Newmark insists on rolling this M-80 under the chairs of his readers:

In an economy full of losers, everyone is fixated on hating the winner.

He’s right about the world fixating on a winner. Goldman has made itself a lightning rod for the nation’s frustrations by being particularly ham-handed in their handling of their compensation. But that isn’t the issue here.

Where does Newmark get off describing the US as an economy full of losers? Does he not recognize that the vast majority of workers at all salary, skill and social levels who are out of work right now have lost their jobs due to the miscalculations and mismanagement of others?

The decisions that led to their dire financial situations certainly were not theirs. The loss of their jobs didn’t come because they were incompetent or made lousy products. You could blame them if those problems appeared over time as with the automakers but this is a collapse, an exogenous event in their working lives.

It’s bad enough that the world economy was mismanaged to a level that created a disruption that will fall disproportionately on persons who had no role in creating the bubble or reaping its rewards. That may be unfortunate and unavoidable. But do they really deserve to have Marie Antoinette Newmark call them “losers?”

Later, Newmark sums up with a thought that applies equally (in reverse) to himself:

It’s much easier for the public to point the finger at the great Goldman conspiracy than to point it at itself.

Don’t Apologize for Anything, Goldman Sachs
Deal Journal/Wall Street Journal ; Nov. 19, 2009

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