Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Wall Street Moralizing

I have known my share of Wall Street people. While there's no one Wall Street job, generally the financial industry based in Manhattan is a tough place to work with lots of hours. People who work there are generally competitive and have a goal of making a lot of money. My first job out of college was as a trainee with a stockbroker firm. After about two days, I realized I didn't like it so it didn't stick. The folks who work there aren't necessarily brilliant people or uniquely special.

Obama's speech to Wall Street yesterday was loaded with the term "responsibility", "crisis", and "risk". My sense is that your average Wall Street financial guy hears what the president said yesterday and finds it somewhat condescending. They don't tend to feel that they are irresponsible to clients or take unnecessary risks. Although some really are awful people. Generally, most are not though.

Obama's problem is that he paints everything with a broad brush. Everything is a systematic crisis. He doesn't really get too far into the details to understand that there are specific things that need to be changed in healthcare, finance, or whatever else. You don't need to blow everything up or talk so broadly that nobody knows if what you're saying applies to you or not. I realize details aren't inspiring. But they're called for when things are complex and answers require nuance and sometimes subtlety. A big hammer or remaking America or offering a new framework isn't the answer to every problem.

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