Doom ahoy, Goldman Sachs is boracic lint

Crikey, it must be bad. Goldman Sachs is cutting back on the pot plants because they cost too much. It’ll be the lattes and the red braces (suspenders to our American friends) next.

It tickled me. These sort of spurious cutting back edicts from on high are commonplace in normal wage slavery. I’ve had senior managers throw hissy fits about the amount we were spending on paperclips, telephone conference calls, travel, coffee and biscuits at meetings, and claiming for sandwiches while on the road.

Some even try and get us to book cheap day returns to London for afternoon meetings. With those tickets you can’t return 4:30 to 7pm. I don’t mind hanging around till 7pm to come back, but only if the Firm pays for the beer. They just won’t do that, even though the difference in ticket price is Β£30 and I can’t drink Β£30 worth of beer in two hours. No beer, well, they can pay the Β£80 for the ticket then πŸ™‚

That sort of penny pinching is just part of life normal business. It always pays to tart up your CV when they start rationing paperclips, however in the rarefied atmosphere of the City image is all. I didn’t think that the Great Vampire Squid would fall victim to cost-cutting tokenism. Surely they could do something slightly shady in some forgotten corner of the world and get funding for the next 100 years of pot plants? Is the spark of human ingenuity waning as GS?Β  Suddenly you’ll turn round and there will be hobos in pinstripe suits in the City.

* why boracic lint for non-Londoners here πŸ™‚

Heck, you need some gallows humour these days, and knowing that even Lloyd Blanfein’s ambition stops at putting foliage on evey GS desk is it for me. Bond markets are signalling a Japanese lost decade for the West, farmland is the new gold, and talking of the barbarous relic everybody’s buying. Oh and it looks like Mr Market is feeling depressed πŸ™‚ Meanwhile, over in Euroland there seems to be a deathwish of exploring every single bad idea under the sun. Apart from that everything’s shipshape…

And the vampire squid is feeling the squeeze. We’re done for…

For all that, there is something that made me think of this record

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In many fields of human endeavour, when things are going wrong, people gradually surrender as the bad news keeps coming. This seems to be happening continually at the moment. There are very serious things wrong with Western capitalism, and every day seems to bring more of the litany of bad news. Too many of our structures have failed us under the loads we added to them.

However, as the lady says, the finest hour is the one that comes between the edge of night and the break of day. Humans are often indolent, and only when enough has fallen away will enough people recognise the fact. Most people live lives of quiet desperation, the actual movers and shakers of life are few and far between. So even more has to fall away before enough people are galvanised to change direction, and a turning point is caused.

There is still a long way to go to reach the low-water mark IMO, and Britain will be a much poorer place before that is reached. However, though I’ve taken the piss out of GS in this piece, there’s also something good about it. Some part of me wonders if this trivial example of Goldman Sach failing to keep up the image is the distant hoot of the owl signalling that there are forces starting to stir that may starting to arrest the fall, and curb some of the excesses that led us astray. It’s an ill wind…

Obama’s State of the Union and catabolic collapse

No, Obama didn’t say the US was due for catabolic collapse πŸ˜‰ You can just imagine the thunderous sound of jaws dropping if he said.

“Fellow Americans, State of the Union? Yep, the Union is in a right state at the moment, and it isn’t going to get better. We’re hooked on oil, there’s a load more people on earth wanting it and it’s been a darned old while since we last found major discovery.”

No. This is America, and with their can-do attitude you can’t go round telling them they can’t do anything. OTOH, perhaps he should have, Americans would kick up something rotten and then maybe we might get those thorium reactors and electric airliners that mean we can all carry on as normal.

He did, however, do a pretty good job of summing up what’s gone wrong with work of late.

“Many people watching tonight can probably remember a time when finding a good job meant showing up at a nearby factory or a business downtown. You didn’t always need a degree, and your competition was pretty much limited to your neighbours. If you worked hard, chances are you’d have a job for life, with a decent paycheck, good benefits, and the occasional promotion. Maybe you’d even have the pride of seeing your kids work at the same company. That world has changed. And for many, the change has been painful.”

That’s pretty much a dead ringer for my post Where have all the Jobs gone, Ma? I didn’t realise they read Simple Living in Suffolk in the White House πŸ˜‰ Okay, so the soi-disant leader of the free world tightened my post up somewhat.

Now the problem is this part

You didn’t always need a degree, and your competition was pretty much limited to your neighbours.

Last time I looked, they aren’t making people any smarter than they did a few decades ago. Globalisation has meant that we all have to run harder and harder just to stay in the same place, work-wise. And the trouble with that is we are ending up with a winner-takes-all world, where a few people get blindingly rich, while the rest of us fight over the dwindling scraps. There aren’t many decent manual and semi-skilled jobs nowadays, office jobs are becoming de-skilled with digital Taylorism (a fine example of that sort of management here)

The problem, as Obama pointed out, is that it is getting increasingly difficult for somebody of average ability to earn a decent enough crust to live a typical life that their parents did. For sure, they now have toys and trinkets galore to distract them from this fact – my Dad didn’t have iPhones and Xboxes. But he did get to buy his own house and own it outright at an earlier age than I managed it, and he did it largely on one wage (as I did, so the achievement is comparable).

And that’s the tragedy. Frippery like the iPhones and Manolo Blahniks distracts us from the unfortunate truth that modern capitalism is beginning to deny a lot of our fellow citizens self-determination in the very basics of life, while bamboozling them with cheap distractions. That would be okay if most people seemed to be happy with that, but if they aren’t, then we have to ask ourselves exactly what is our economy for? Is it so people like Goldman Sachs’s Lloyd Blankfein can earn $13,000,000 while ‘doing God’s work‘ in 2010 while, as Obama told us, yer average citizen’s life becomes financially insecure? Why are we feeding this machine with our lives and our happiness foregone for so little return?

As Blankfein himself said in the WSJ

Is it possible to make too much money? β€œIs it possible to have too much ambition? Is it possible to be too successful?” Blankfein shoots back. β€œI don’t want people in this firm to think that they have accomplished as much for themselves as they can and go on vacation.

Why the hell not, Lloyd? What exactly is it that you’ve got against vacations? It’s people like you, punk, that have screwed up the vision I was offered at school that by the time I was 40 we’d be working a couple of days a week and have lots of leisure time.

What actually happened is too many people like Lloyd and his buddies are chasing the money god, and bidding up the price of the things we all need, like houses and stuff. So we end up having to work even longer to try and keep our heads above water.

We have ended up with a sociopathic economy that can’t employ people of average abilities, and then rubs their noses in it by letting Lloyd and his chums trash the financial system and get bailed out while they ‘do God’s work’. It’s about time that God sent his quality control inspectors in to the banks and educate these guys that just because everybody else is buying NINJA mortgages doesn’t make it all right for them to. Even I learned that chasing momentum was a bad idea after I had lost enough money.

Oh and Lloyd, stop being such a jerk about those vacations. A lot more vacations might let us all step back a moment and think about things for a change. Go easy on the boys okay?