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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

"Gluttons of privilege"

I think the more damning criticism of investment banks is not that they were greedy, but that they were stupid -- inventing financial instruments they themselves didn't understand, and staking huge sums on such. But in any event, we'll be hearing plenty more anti-Wall Street rhetoric this year, some of it well-founded, some of it not. And as a reminder that anti-financial populism is hardly new, here's from my article "Bulls, Bears and Presidents":
The 1948 presidential election was another one in which the financial world was prominently at issue. That’s because FDR’s successor, Harry S. Truman, opted to run rather forcefully against Wall Street, in the course of defending his office from the challenge posed by Republican candidate Thomas E. Dewey.
During the campaign, Truman attacked “Wall Street reactionaries” and “gluttons of privilege.” He said a Republican victory would empower “bloodsuckers with offices in Wall Street…princes of privilege…plunderers.” These were, he warned, “the most reactionary elements,” “silent and cunning men,” who would “skim the cream from our natural resources to satisfy their own greed.” They would, he said, “tear the country apart,” and also make it “go to the dogs.”

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