Goldman Sachs - What does it teach us?

Joshua Sebold
Staff Writer
4/28/2010


    I don't have enough space here to explain specifically why many of Goldman Sachs actions in the last few years were damaging to the economy, but there are about a hundred stories online documenting the company’s role in the downturn; so if you haven’t gotten to step one of genuinely despising the company and everyone in the upper levels of it, an hour of web-surfing should get you there.

    To keep it simple I will say the company, along with a lot of average people who tried to fly too close to the sun, played a large role in the recent financial collapse.   

 

The main distinction between the company and practically everyone else who played a part is that average people lost their houses, their life savings or their businesses, while Goldman Sachs made billions of dollars on the collapse it helped to create.

    The recent announcement that Goldman Sachs was charged by the federal government with fraud is reassuring as an indication the company will be held accountable for its actions, but this fact should not be enough to satisfy the average American's need for the causes of the financial crisis to be addressed.

    I find it very unlikely the company, if it loses the case, will be charged an amount of money that comes anywhere close to the billions it made in the act of helping our economy into the recession.

    That's because this fraud case only deals with one trade that the government alleges was illegal, and we know for a fact that many of Goldman Sachs actions, and those of other similar companies that played roles in the creation of the downturn, were actually legal.

    You can also get an idea of what effect this type of case has on an industry's future actions by taking a look at the pharmaceutical industry, where companies found to have promoted a dangerous or untested drug are often fined millions of dollars after making billions on the drugs in question.

    In case you couldn’t guess, many of those drug companies have not changed their practices after a lawsuit or even multiple lawsuits were successfully brought against them.

    There are two options in addressing these types of discrepancies.

    Either we (and the U.S. government by extension) can decide the punishments for companies that willingly mislead clients in a way that damages large amounts of people should be more severe, or we can empower some sectors of the government to be in a better position to stop companies from taking actions that endanger millions of people.

    One of the main things people in this country need to wake up to is the fact that all regulations don't need to be equal.

    If, for instance, you don't like the current level of standards for building houses or running a restaurant that doesn't mean you have to feel the same way about the more complex regions of the financial industry.

    Let’s also get past the claims made by large financial companies that “the economy will slow down if we regulate them more.”

    Please keep in mind the people saying this are the ones who just murdered our entire economy in front of our eyes and made a boatload of money doing it.

    You don’t understand their industry; I don’t understand their industry. But we know they just punched us in the face and paid themselves bonuses while doing it, so why are we listening to them?

    The reality is the actions of companies like Goldman Sachs have negatively affected far more people than the vast majority of companies can possibly harm.

    If you assume unemployment has risen by around 5 percent on average in our country because of the actions of Goldman Sachs, that would mean the company directly harmed at least 15 million people.

    By comparison, the much ridiculed car manufacturer, Toyota, made 9 million cars in 2008.

    Toyota would practically have to put life-altering defects in every one of its cars in this country to possibly have had the negative impact on our country that Goldman Sachs has.

    It would have to be willfully creating death machines, and each one would have to harm multiple people, for the Toyota recallto have an effect anywhere near that of the financial downturn.   

The reality is simple: The financial world that Goldman Sachs operates in is something you and I will never fully understand, yet it has more impact on our future than any action we can take as individuals.

    This area of the financial sector is the most obvious candidate for increased regulation since lead plumbing.

    Interestingly enough, people seem much more inclined to call for the overhaul of something like the Tax Code — also something affecting their lives that they can't possibly understand without aid — than they are to call for changes in the areas of the financial sector where Goldman Sachs operates.

    This is about as insane a reality as can possibly be found. The difference between the tax code and the world of Goldman Sachs is: You can pay two different people to do your taxes and they will, you hope, come to the same result.

    It's actually possible for a professional to take your financial information and tell you how tax rules apply to you.

    The world of investment and the U.S. economy couldn't be any farther from that.

    It's laughable and frankly insulting that so early after the downturn you can already turn on a television and watch some actor tell you that he represents a financial firm that knows exactly how to protect your money.

    Are we really that stupid and gullible? Do we forget so quickly?

    I can tell you this, your children won't forget if a bunch of greedy financial school dropouts destroy our economy again because you were too busy being pissed off at politicians about taxes, the price of toothbrushes or the fact that some states are paying more for healthcare than others, to focus on what’s really important.

    Making the right decisions in the home and in shaping our country centers around focusing on priorities, and there are no decisions relating to taxes, regulations or your money in general that a politician will make in your lifetime that will impact you more than the current vacuum of rules or sanity that exists in the financial sector.


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