April 30th, 2010
11:55 AM ET

Money talks, but doesn't listen

Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/money/2010/04/27/news/companies/goldman_sachs_hearing/smlvid.four_swearing.gi.jpg width=300 height=169]

The fury over Wall Street Fat Cats reached a new high on Capitol Hill this week, as a police lineup of Goldman Sach’ers came to scratch and yawn while Senators desperately tried to make them admit…well, frankly, anything.

In my brief moments of lucidity as I struggled against the coma-inducing Kryptonite of a Congressional hearing, this is what they extracted in the way of confessions: 1) High finance is really complex, 2) We’re upset about how things turned out, because the tens of millions we scored in bonuses is not nearly enough, and 3) Yes, we heard something about a housing collapse. How is that working out for you little people?

Part of the problem was a language barrier. The Senators were speaking in Outrage; a commonly understood tongue of the American populace. But the GS’ers were answering in Filthy-Richese; actually a rare dialect of that language known as I’ve-Got-More-Money-Than-the-Pope. And btw, he’s got a boss, I don’t.

But there was also a knowledge gap between the sides. Members of Congress are often more instinctive than intelligent. Don’t get me wrong: They can be smart, but the skills needed to win public office these days do not necessarily require it. (Oddly enough, getting elected does require an almost feral ability to sniff out and avoid cell phone cameras when a mistress is in tow, but that’s another story.) As a result, precious few of our top elected officials appear to be as versed in the big money game as they need to be for this kind of show down.

Out of the entire panel trying to pin down the GS’ers, only Senator Carl Levin of Michigan seemed truly comfortable navigating the arcane terms and concepts that the Wall Street crowd sprays like octopus ink whenever the questions get too threatening. And even he, with his prosecutorial zeal, never really came close to cornering them.

Because in the end, the GS’ers came wrapped in virtually impenetrable suits of money, capable of deflecting almost anything the politicos fire at them. They deny any wrongdoing. They are fighting the SEC charges against their company. They’re keeping the cash.

Money talks. And what it is saying to those in DC who think Wall Street greed helped tank the U.S. economy, is “So what?”

Filed under: Raw Politics • Tom Foreman • Wall St.
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