A new definition of chutzpah

The Yiddish word “chutzpah” means a combination of audacity and impudence, as exemplified by someone who murders his mother and father and then asks for mercy from the court on the grounds that he is an orphan.

Maybe we need a new word for the audacity and impudence of the Wall Street banking and financial community who brought the U.S. and world economy to the brink of disaster, were bailed out of their mistakes through hundreds of billions of dollars of direct and indirect subsidies and now tell us that we have to cut back on spending to help the unemployed and retirees because otherwise we will lose the confidence of the financial community.

Click on this article by a hedge fund manager as an example of what I mean. Now I am sure there are prudent and responsible hedge fund managers who were not involved in the financial crash, and I am willing to accept, for the sake of argument, that the writer is one of them. Still, as a class, it is hedge fund managers and other financial speculators who precipitated the current financial crisis. It takes blindness and arrogance for them to demand that wage-earners and retirees be the ones to make the sacrifices to put things right.

The writer says that U.S. government debt is reaching unsustainable levels, but the only cause he assigns is that federal government workers are paid too much and enjoy too much job security. The implication is that if government workers were subject to the same kinds of income squeeze and layoffs as workers in the private sector, all would be well. But there doesn’t seem to be any income squeeze or much job insecurity on Wall Street. The bonuses of the big bond traders are bigger than ever.

The writer makes some good points about how financial bailouts can’t go on forever, but says nothing about financial reform to avert the need for future bailouts.  He says nothing about rescinding the upper-bracket tax cuts under the Bush administration, which are a major contributor to the deficit, much less taxing hedge fund managers’ bonuses as ordinary income rather than capital gains. Nor ending subsidies to agribusiness and the oil industry. Nor eliminating spending for weapons systems the military doesn’t even want.

Click on this for a report on how the U.S. Senate is bowing to the will of the financial community in this respect.

Click on this for a report on how the G-20 group of nations is bowing to the will of the financial community in this respect.

Click on this for economist Paul Krugman’s view of the situation.

Click on this for a blogger’s commentary and perspective.

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One Response to “A new definition of chutzpah”

  1. David Damico Says:

    Phil, thanks for your comments on this. What you say is connected (in my mind) with what Michael Moore spoke about in his recent film, “Capitalism, A Love Story.” In particular, when documents surfaced from CitiBank stating (to the best of my recollection) that their borrowers be damned, only they, the ultra rich, meant anything. As someone holding a Citibank loan and seeing them bailed out by the government, I am disheartened when they call several times a day threatening my credit record for being unable to pay back my loan amounts even though I am underemployed through no fault of my own. I feel as if I am being blamed and penalized for seeking a better life. I feel powerless against such a monumental institution and will likely suffer if I remain underemployed. I’ve asked one or two of these callers about the government bailout and they reply, “well, we paid that money back” Wish I were in a situation to do the same.


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