Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Kind sir: Can you spare some change?

As I like to say, one of the advantages to keeping a large-enough beard is that you will never be mistaken for an investment banker.

Wall Street has taken a pummeling in the court of public opinion as of late, firstly by bursting its economic marbles all over the altar of the free market, and secondly by making sure nobody is passed over in the blood-letting required to have them returned. Even the hyper-wealthy have been burned, which speaks to the urgency of the crisis; after all, capitalism requires its defenders.

Perhaps it was an act of contrition, then, that found American bankers throwing their -- shall we say, "our"? -- money behind the candidate of change in such large quantities. According to Public Citizen, Barack Obama's inaugural march to Mecca cost $35.3 million, about 80% of it paid for by some of your best friends and mine, including:

• Louis Susman, vice chairman of Citigroup Corporate and Investment Banking and managing director, vice chairman of investment banking, Citigroup ($300,000);

• Mark Gilbert, senior executive, Lehman Brothers ($185,000);

• Robert Wolf, chairman and CEO, UBS Americas ($100,000);

• Jennifer Scully, vice president, private wealth management, Goldman Sachs ($100,000);

• Bruce Heyman, managing director of the Private Wealth Management Group, Midwest region, Goldman Sachs ($50,000);

• Kobi Brinson, senior vice president and assistant general counsel, Wachovia ($35,000)

On the other hand, it's possible that when the stakes get too high, throwing a big party while keeping a white-knuckled grip on "togetherness" is the only way to keep the poor from strangling the rich. Don't get me wrong: We're all Americans. Some of us are just more likely to be stimulated by our government than others.

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