Don't get us wrong: We despise the arrogant and overpaid financiers responsible for this economic mess. They, not taxpayers, should pay for their incompetence. But banker hatred is starting to get worrisomely extreme.
Bill Maher: Execute them!
The HBO talk-show host said he would like to see two bankers executed: Former Lehman Brothers CEO Dick Fuld, for earning $500 million in compensation before the company folded, and Bernie Madoff, for scamming rich people like Fuld. China does this sort of thing, you see, and it would serve as a warning to others. Maher's "Death to Moochy" segment might habe been half in jest, but Maher left no doubt he was at least partly serious.
London's 'Summer of Rage'
In London, financial services once accounted for close to 40 percent of economic output but is now in tattetrs. Fierce economic demonstrations have racked nearby Iceland, and around 1 million recently turned out to protest in France. Meanwhile, the G20 will soon come to town for an economic summit. So it's no wonder police are gearing up for the sort of rioting Britain hasn't seen in more than two decades. Who knows, maybe Gotham will follow suit.
Bankers more despised, less cool than Congress, somehow
Rep. Barney Frank: "People really hate you, and they're starting to hate us because we're hanging out with you... [you] need to avoid being stupid." When a Congressman is calling you uncool, unpopular and stupid, something has gone horribly wrong. It takes a lot to make people hate some particular group more than Congress. This is a clear a sign as any that the masses are gathering their pitchforks.
Bankers did more than their fair share to get us into this mess. They turned a blind eye to lying mortgage brokers. They kept doubling down on leverage bets they knew (or should have known) would eventually turn sour. They got personally rich through their ineptitude. And some of them have the revolting audacity to demand the government reinstate that wealth while the poor rot.
But the bankers did not act alone. Journalists celebrated them. Politicians pandered to them. And a good many people who knew, or should have known, what they were getting into borrowed from them.
Despicable bankers should not be strung up, nor should we burn out cities down trying to do so. But they shouldn't get off lightly.
Those bankers managing taxpayer money — most of them — deserve government salaries. Excess compensation should aggressively be grabbed back through every available legal channel.
And the financial leaders responsible for the meltdown should be forced to actually learn their trade, starting at the call centers that deal with their customers and continuing through a variety of clerical and middle-management positions at low-salary state banks. (If you've got a better idea, we trust you'll leave it in the comments.)