Thursday, March 26, 2009

Batter up

This disagreement with my take on the DeSantis NYT OpEd of the other day argues that I missed the boat on what DeSantis was trying to say. First, whether or not DeSantis aimed to play the role of martyr can only be known by DeSantis himself, but certainly how ones reads it is pretty much reader-dependent.

He further writes:
You call him out for saying that the downfall of AIG wasn't his fault, but what if that is the truth? Your only evidence for it not being true is the assumption that everyone who worked at AIG-FP is at fault. As to your comment about him blaming it on shadowy people elsewhere--what could he have said that would have satisfied you? Do we have to assume that he's full of shit unless he drops a footnote with the names and addresses of the people he was referring to?

Certainly, I'm not blaming AIG's downfall on this guy, and I'll give him the benefit of the doubt that he wasn't even indirectly involved in questionable financial decisions. But what I will call him out for is pointing a finger and saying "hey, don't look at me." I'm not asking him to name names, but I am asking him not to blame someone else if he's only willing to do so in the vaguest of terms. In other words, I'm suggesting that his OpEd would have been much better had he simply left out the part about who's to blame, because I'm tired of reading about whose fault it is not.

Another thing that bothered me about your response is your criticism of him for saying that he worked hard.

I'm certainly not criticizing him for hard work, but rather for wrapping himself in it to such a degree that makes him seem like he's working harder than anyone else. Indeed, in a single OpEd, we get this:

"After 12 months of hard work dismantling the company..."
"I can no longer justify spending 10, 12, 14 hours a day..."
"My hard work earned me acceptance to M.I.T...."
"We have worked 12 long months ..."
"I know that because of hard work I have benefited more than most..."

I mean, enough already! Fine, you work hard, but so do a lot of other people who don't receive giant paychecks. Your hard work is not a justification for getting paid a lot, and that is where I think Wall Street misses the sentiment of the country. The fundamental criticism of the Wall Street exec that is currently bearing the brunt of criticism is not that he is "a lazy, incompetent rich prick," although people certainly do think that -- rather, I would suggest that the underlying source of rage in the country has a lot more to do with the fact that these Wall Street execs are not out for anyone but themselves. They aren't doing anything of value, they aren't making the country any better, they are only enriching themselves, everyone else be damned. One could certainly argue the validity of that sentiment, but I don't think one could argue with its current strength. In sum, no one cares how hard you did or didn't work.

Finally, if you are going to criticize this guy for congratulating himself on his hard work while not giving enough credit to how lucky he is then, to be consistent, you should voice the same criticism at virtually anyone in America. We are all very lucky to be live here rather than Somalia.... So if you overhear a strawberry picker complain about their pay being reduced from $8 to $7 an hour, please call them out on your next blog for how ungrateful they are for living in the US.

Sorry, I think this particular critcism is off base. First, there is a huge difference between going from $8 an hour to $7 an hour (which is way more than migrant workers make picking strawberries, by the way) and some already-wealthy guy missing out on becoming even-more-wealthy. Second, DeSantis is writing an OpEd for the New York Times largely by virtue of his elite status in society -- when strawberry pickers are so lucky to have their personal missives to their bosses published in the national papers, I'll critice them too if they make stupid statements. But to suggest that I need to come down harder on the voiceless for things they haven't said is a bit odd.