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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

James Kenneth Galbraith on Bill Moyer's Journal

When I was working as a corporate drone, my wife and I (she worked at the same corporation) used to have a code phrase that we used to express disregard for others' response, indifference, or apathy - "F*** Them If They Can't Take A Joke". Others were supposed to roll with the punches like you , and "it's all a game, anyway"; the Dilbert philosophy.

I suspect the drones of the finance industry must adopt this attitude to some degree also, in order to distance themselves from the potential victims of their business dealings. But I just learned a new one: IBGYBG. In an interview with Bill Moyers, Galbraith says, on Freedman's long easy money run:

The Federal Reserve, in particular, knew that the dam was cracking. Alan Greenspan, I think, almost surely knew this, and chose to wait until it had washed away. “

Read the full story at:

IBGYBG - "I'll Be Gone, You'll Be Gone". This is the height of cynicism. James K. Galbraith, speaking on Bill Moyer's Journal, claims it has been a finance industry code for some time. The gist of this one is that, "by the time someone figures out that the arrangement we're selling stinks, we will not be held responsible".

I can imagine this one being applied on a daily basis as the big banks packaged and sold mortgages that they knew were questionable, since the borrowers had not been required to demonstrate their creditworthiness. It's a little like the old fascist rationale of "only following orders". Many of the people working in the finance industry were not in a position to alter the direction of their company's business practices, so I can imagine many were squeamish about the business they were operating. If they had been in the business long, they knew that they were incurring much greater risk by lowering qualification standards. If they understood the packaging into MBS's, they probably understood that someone was going to get screwed.

So this code - IBGYBG - was presumably used when an objection was raised on legal or ethical grounds in business strategy meetings. It's not a surprise when a CEO or executive gets hired immediately by an old competitor or some other corporation regardless of the condition he's left his old company in, and regardless of his own personal responsibility for the old company's problems. If the company crashes, it's probably on their resume that they were working on the bleeding edge at the behest of the company, only their luck went bad.

The effrontery, the presumption of suckers waiting to be had, the whole snake-oil salesmanship routine, are expressed quite adequately by this new (to me) code - IBGYBG. Just look the other way.

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