Sunday, March 29, 2009


President Obama met Friday with the chief executives from 13 of the largest financial institutions in the country, including the heads of Citigroup, JP Morgan Chase, Goldman Sachs. The "we are all in this together" party did not, by all accounts, include a game of pin the tail on 13 donkeys.

The reports are that there was some continuation of the Obama mantra of "we are mad as hell as we are not going to take it anymore" on the excessive compensation question. But the President, and those gathered around the table all recognize that the only answer lies in concerted joint effort. Play nice had to be the theme of the day.

It is hard to comprehend, but we have apparently pumped so much money into some of these entities that they feel no need to keep from repaying the money we have loaned them. The leaders of American Express and Goldman Sachs explored that possibility in the dialogue with the President. The New York Times reports that the President advised that, while this might be a positive step, it needed to be done in a way that did not undermine lending (New York Times, March 28, 2009, "For Obama and Banks, a Little Unity"). Thanks but no thanks.

We are in the middle of a strange dance between partners who may not really want to be dating but who have to do so out of necessity. We are in a universe where I don't need your money, you have to keep it, is a conversation taking place at the height of a recession bordering on depression.

While the fit may be uncomfortable, as long as the economic blues keeps playing, those gathered at the White House yesterday are going to have hold hands and embrace. Look into the camera and say cheese.

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