Lord Brian Griffiths of Fforestfach is a vice chairman at Goldman Sachs Intl., a life peer under England's nobility scheme, and Christian theorist of "biblically based wealth creation." Just the man to explain how Goldman's taxpayer-financed bonuses are perfectly moral.
At a panel discussion in London yesterday, Lord Griffiths of Fforestfach gently unraveled the moral knot that has flummoxed so many of us lesser souls as we struggle to grapple with a reason that federally subsidized banks should be paying out an anticipated $23 billion in bonuses to people who are already wealthy beyond reason while nearly 10% of the nation is unemployed: "We have to tolerate the inequality as a way to achieve greater prosperity and opportunity for all."
Well put, sir! For instance: Even if you don't have a job, you'd probably have even less of a job—negative employment!—if Goldman Sachs weren't using the money that it made by leveraging the taxes that the feds take out of your unemployment check to pay billions of dollars to people like Lord Griffiths of Fforestfach, a vice chair for Goldman Sachs International and adviser to Goldman's domestic American operation. And the record number of Americans on food stamps—32 million—would almost certainly not be enjoying the level of "prosperity and opportunity for all" that they currently benefit from if not for that commodities trader who will get $25 million this year.
In fairness, Lord Griffiths of Fforestfach did acknowledge that the the beneficiaries of taxpayer-financed bonus payouts do have moral obligations:
"To whom much is given much is expected," he said. "There is a sense that if you make money you are expected to give."
A sense, indeed. Which is why Goldman gives so generously of itself to needy elite private schools that educate the children of people who can afford $20,000 a year in tuition. But there are many ways to give, and Lord Griffiths of Fforestfach makes a good point when he says that inequality is necessary for prosperity—take for instance, the recent Formula One after-party at the Amber Lounge—"the ultimate VIP experience that follows the Grand Prix series around the world"—in Singapore that a tipster tells us was chock full of Goldman Sachs traders who'd purchased private VIP tables. According to Formula One's web site, tables for eight at the September event went for as high as $22,000, complete with a Jeroboam of Dom Perignon. If those Goldman traders hadn't been paid those bonuses, who would have showered all the women there with cash and champagne? That's how opportunity and prosperity get spread around.
Lord Griffiths of Fforestfach is quite the Christian apologist for wealthy people; he wrote a book called Morality and the Marketplace and has thought long and hard about how to reconcile the teachings of Jesus Christ with the relentless drive to acquire money. He's done pretty well with it. But wasn't there something about camels, and heaven, and rich men? And if Jesus wants Goldman Sachs employees to get multi-million-dollar taxpayer-financed bonuses, why are the Benedictine Sisters of Mt. Angel launching a shareholder movement to get Goldman to reign in its compensation packages? We guess that, for the fabulously wealthy who go for the whole heaven/hell thing, it makes sense to enjoy as many Amber Lounge after-parties as you can squeeze in while you're in this world, because the one that awaits doesn't really have much to offer.
If you know how Goldman employees will be spending their taxpayer-financed bonuses this year, let me know: you can e-mail me at the address below or post to the #goldmanproject page.