"Debt, Greed, Hubris"

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Nick Paumgarten, staff writer for The New Yorker magazine, looks at the origins and impact of the financial crisis in this week's New Yorker. His summation: "debt, greed, hubris."


Nick Paumgarten

Comments [37]


Hey, I'm listening to the podcast, glad to hear Nick Paumgarten is still on the side of reason, and still asking for reform, and not believing the delusion that everything's going back to 2005.

Sorry I cast aspersions on how coming from money would affect his coverage.

I also have to say I feel better knowing that a guy with the money and good looks of Nick Paumgarten looks back on the last decade and says it was pretty lousy. It apparently wasn't just us who thought it was really, really bad.

May. 13 2009 03:38 PM
hjs from 11211

isn't trap just a loan?

May. 13 2009 03:07 PM

I'll admit I haven't yet listened to the podcast.

But I used to work with Nick Paumgarten. He's about the nicest guy I ever met, which was all the more surprising given his good looks and his money. Gentle, humble, thoughtful.

But he's from an extremely wealthy family that no doubt will come out of this crisis entirely unscathed.

Why should he say anything about it?

That might or might not apply to Mr. Surowiecki, whose work I also admire.

Ah, the meritocracy... let's not forget the sarcasm intended when the term was first invented.

May. 13 2009 03:02 PM

I'll admit I haven't yet listened to the podcast.

But I used to work with Nick Paumgarten. He's about the nicest guy I ever met, which was all the more surprising given his good looks and his money. Gentle, humble, thoughtful.

But he's from an extremely wealthy family that no doubt will come out of this crisis entirely unscathed.

Why should he say anything about it?

That might or might not apply to Mr. Surowiecki, whose work I also admire.

Ah, the meritocracy... let's not forget the sarcasm intended when the term was first invented.

May. 13 2009 03:02 PM
Megha Gupta from brooklyn

Listening to this segment and others on the financial crisis I keep coming back to the idea that at the heart of so many of our nations problems is campaign finance. You can't get elected for any national office in this country without spending millions of dollars - as a result all politicians are beholden to at least one special interest group unless they are independently wealthy (and I mean WEALTHY). It is right to be angry at individual politicians for having failed to protect our interests as citizens and taxpayers - but we must acknowledge that our failure to make campaign finance reform a major issue for candidates running for political office has deeply damaged the function and form of our government.

May. 13 2009 02:54 PM
David from boston

I agree with #24. This guy has almost nothing useful to say. How about at least talking about the ongoing reform process? Consider talking to Elizabeth Warren (from Harvard) who in now working in Washington on upcoming reforms. This guy's article in the New Yorker was much like his interview. I kept waiting to learn something, but never did.

May. 13 2009 02:20 PM

Since I think of this situation simply what happens when you push off the plain truth for enough years, I also vote for "The Great Repression."

May. 13 2009 12:26 PM
Cesar from Manhattan

Addiction to Greed

What to call the current financial situation: Greedo-nomics. Imagine the green, spiky-headed alien in the cantina scene of Star Wars who tries to shake down Han Solo on behalf of mob boss Jabba the Hutt.

Seriously, though, the financial industry has shaken down the U.S. taxpayer through the bailouts and "lost" money from the TARP with the willing, if not complicit, participation of Congress and the White House.

The language and behavior of financial barons like Dick Parsons sounds similar to what an addict might say. Rationalization and self-serving justification to get or keep the object of addiction seems to me what we've been hearing for months from these people. They are addicted to greed and will say and do whatever they must to retain the authority that allows them to keep taking more.

How can we break this vicious cycle? (Warning: Oversimplification ahead.) Step One is a recognition of the problem. Then, the addict must be denied the object of addiction, which might be called The Great Withdrawal. (This name could also be applied to the collapse of the credit markets.) Finally, re-education, enforcement of existing laws that govern financial behavior, and reestablishment of banking laws that, once stricken from the books, created this environment conducive for abuse is a hopeful if unlikely prescription for recovery.

May. 13 2009 12:07 PM
Marlon Ziello from brooklyn


May. 13 2009 11:55 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

When I was growing up in the 1950s and early '60s, gambling was mostly illegal and only about 10% of Americans had money on Wall Street. Since then, the "gaming" and "financial services" industries (both based on scamming) have become large industries employing many people. In the last decades, Casinos have become ubiquitous, and have managed to lure millions to their lairs to suck billions out of their pockets. Similarly, Wall Street spread its tentacles all over, especially into the banking industry, and have lured Trillions of dollars out of millions of suckers, ahem, "savers" and "investors. These scamming industries have suffered a setback, as they did during the 1930s. It will take some time to recoup, but eventually the suckers will be back, because as P.T. Barnum correctly observed, in AMerica "A sucker is born every minute."

May. 13 2009 11:54 AM
Marlon Ziello from brooklyn

Trickle down economics wall street and fractional reserve banking are all just tools to keep the people down.

Combination of recession and depression REPRESSION

May. 13 2009 11:51 AM
steve from bernardsville, nj

We are experiencing a COLLAPSION, pure and simple.

May. 13 2009 11:30 AM
Barrett from Brooklyn, NY

Blaming the computer...? The bottom line comes back to the old saying, "Figures don't lie, but liars figure."

I think of a line from Elvis Costello's "...This Town...", written around the time of the '87 crash: "The little green figures/That dance on his screen/Say everything you want to hear/But nothing they mean." Technology makes such shenanigans easier, of course, but don't start taking a hatchet to your laptop before taking a good, long look in the mirror.

- Barrett

May. 13 2009 11:25 AM

That guy was the most pathetic and banal "moral relativist" I've heard in months. It's almost a crime that he's getting paid, if his writing is as non-existant as what he had to say on air.

May. 13 2009 11:25 AM
hjs from 11211

in 10 years the USA will either look like mexico or western europe. it's your choice. example, fix social security now or build soup kitchens tomorrow.
don't like to pay taxes, fine, get ready for the 3rd world economy.

May. 13 2009 11:24 AM
Catherine from Rockville Centre

Thanks for a great discussion.

re: the Wall Street guys have to be in charge because they are the ones who know what's going on.


You get a smart unsullied person who ASKS the Wall Street people to help him/her figure out what to do, but you don't give the POWER to regulate to the scoundrels. You just use their knowledge.

May. 13 2009 11:23 AM
salvatore principato from manhattan

president obama tear down the wall street!!!

i call this current economic crisis 'the inevitable payback'

May. 13 2009 11:22 AM
craig from east village

Stop Quoting Richard Parsons!!! That interview was one to be forgotten Brian, not to be highlighted!

May. 13 2009 11:22 AM
Karen from NYC

At my house, we call it the "Decession," usually with a parenthetical, "Bleeping Republicans!".

May. 13 2009 11:22 AM
billy bob

It's not as complicated as the crooks claim it is.
There criminal behavior was always identified as such.


Simple as that.

May. 13 2009 11:21 AM
hjs from 11211

our current situation "the age of asia!"

May. 13 2009 11:19 AM
Michael M Thomas from Brooklyn

Hey Nick, it's your old mentor. Three thoughts. when I was a partner at LB, it was frequently said that banks should not be publicly-held. Walter Wriston in his day decreed that Citi's EPS would grow 15% a year. And the computer made it profitable to deal in ridiculously infinitesimal fractions of money.

May. 13 2009 11:19 AM

This guy is wrong there are other markets now New York is already lost its leading status and its not coming back. People need to understand that the world has changed. We ARE NOT the only place to be any more. Other places have the intellectual capoptial infrastructre and rule of law, and frnkly as far as rule of law/transparecy is concerned, we have done a joke of a job and are only somewhat better than Russia, so stop acting like we have things no one else does. This is a total joke for this guy to be arguing this and he is not living in reality.

May. 13 2009 11:17 AM
Karen from NYC

Nothing will change as long as huge profits can be made. Kids are hired out of the big business schools to earn mega-bucks by generating profits -- capital -- for investors. We are in a hiatus due to the meltdown, which occurred due to lack of regulation and greed. Wall Street will watch out for bubbles and Ponzi schemes, at least in the short run, but it is otherwise not going to change. The bad paper will be bought out; the credit markets will slowly open up; and we'll be back to the (bad) status quo.

May. 13 2009 11:17 AM
Hugh from Brookyn

What reason does anyone on Wall Street have to think that anything is really going to change?

Dean Baker or Michael Hudson recently quoted one of the Wall Street bigwigs as saying that he really doesn't see things changing very much.

Obama has made it very clear that he has no real intention of changing things much. To date, Wall Street billionaires have effectively been rewarded for their crimes.

As for the opinions of Dick Parsons, he mangled Time Warner. Now he's mangling Citigroup. No reason to think much of his opinion.

The United States is now in a holding-on pattern -- trying to hold on to power. This is evident in the violent, ill-considered attacks around the world and even more evident in the growing power of China and the determination of China, Russia and others to end the Age of the Imperial Dollar.

May. 13 2009 11:16 AM
Ruth W. from Westchester

our current situation is a Rogue Economy, a name coined by the Italian economist Loretta Napoleoni

May. 13 2009 11:16 AM
the truth from bkny

The correct phrase is "there's no place like home" genius! But what do you want from a guy carrying a "The end is near sign" in NY??!!

May. 13 2009 11:13 AM
Jim Byrne from Bushwick

The name of this crisis should include instruct that the boom was false.

May. 13 2009 11:12 AM

The Slowdown Showdown.

May. 13 2009 11:12 AM

Best/only investment advice I ever received:

"Buy? Why?"

May. 13 2009 11:11 AM
hjs from 11211

greed is central but there's a lot of blame to go around. what about the greed of the middle class who wants cheap lettuce not ever thinking about the slave labor picking it.

May. 13 2009 11:11 AM
florion from NY

What can your guest, Nick Paumgarten, can say about credit default swap???

May. 13 2009 11:11 AM
Diego from Wall Street

Here's a term to refer to this economic situation: The Great Funk

May. 13 2009 11:10 AM

Eat the rich!

May. 13 2009 11:09 AM
hjs from 11211

rylee, just think about how many jobs per head result from that $1500 plate. let them spend, but tax them also

May. 13 2009 11:06 AM
rylee from manhattan

Riding a train this morning, with two Wall Street types, planning a client dinner at an Ultra upscale NY restaurant discussing $450-1,500 a head costs. This is the stuff that makes everyone angry and disgusted. The Where's mine?, I am entitled to this, too bad for you, even haha I wonder what the little people are doing? attitudes. That world needs a major recalibration. They won't change unless they are forced to. Losing the money you are used to helps, but this world needs a major reorientation.

May. 13 2009 11:00 AM
Sustainability Factor

And don't forget the show Friends. For attracting all the victim types willing to spend 50% of their income on rent/mortgage instead of putting their feet down. That was smart!

May. 13 2009 10:09 AM

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