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Issue #1544      25 April 2012

Goldman Sachs: Toxic capitalist icon

Goldman Sachs is a “bankers’ bank”. Situated in Manhattan New York, it deals in trillions across the globe. They are a bigger version of Macquarie Bank in Australia.

Governments tie themselves in knots to achieve a “Triple A” rating, building surplus or balanced budgets, cutting back, laying off thousands of workers, so that banks like Goldman Sachs don’t charge a higher rate of interest. The lower the rating from Standard and Poors (another Wall Street outfit), the higher the rate of interest Goldman Sachs charges. That is, the greater one’s need for a loan, the higher the charge.

Bright young “investment analysts” hit the jackpot when they join Goldman Sachs. Their task is to ferret out profits, as high as possible, as fast as possible. It is their credo. It is the only way to “expand the business” and “maintain growth”. They must accrue more money in order to stay out in front and make the “big deals”, i.e. secure greater lending, take greater risks, on ever more lucrative investments. It is, in fact, capitalism in a financial nutshell.

Backpage.com

New York Times’ journalist Nicholas Kristof recently unveiled at least one of Goldman Sachs’ seedier “investments”. A web-page titled Backpage.com is probably the biggest global sex marketplace for buying women and girls – many under-age, some proven to have been forced into prostitution, some abused – and Goldman Sachs holds a 16 percent stake in its operating company, Village Voice Media.

Now red-faced, Goldman-Sachs is frantically unloading its shares in Village Voice Media and claiming ignorance. After all, they are a huge respected company and this was a tiny investment, “We had no influence over operations,” Andrea Raphael, Goldman Sachs spokesperson, said.

But this does not explain how Goldman Sachs first came to invest in Village Voice Media 12 years ago, in 2000, and why a Goldman managing director, Scott Lebovitz, sat on the Village Voice Media board for many years, only stepping down in 2010.

“It’s business”

Despite the Global Financial Crisis, one of the growing US exports over the past decade has been all-grades porn, much of it involving under-age kids, or “barely legals” – people who look under-age. The United States supplies 89 percent of the world’s pornographic web pages. Most of these are paraded on Backpage.com. Human sex trafficking, aided and abetted by the internet, has exploded over the same period.

The US specialises in exports of porn videos, magazines and aids to Africa, Eastern Europe and Latin America, while in exchange young girls and desperate women are smuggled into richer OECD countries for sex services “ ... because there is a market for it.” Overall, the USA derives trillions of dollars in the global promotion and trade in porn and prostitution.

There is simply a bitter irony in the religious Right’s demands to “restore true, unfettered free enterprise”, to “clean up” social ills and to prosecute drug-dealers, pimps and paedophile sex-rings when really, all these people are doing is “supplying a demand”. They are at the sharp end of “business” and see themselves as successful entrepreneurs who make fast, massive profits in catering to “immorality” – hence the involvement of Goldman Sachs.

Immorality, the waste of valuable human resources on destructive, anti-social, anti-humanist activity is endemic to capitalism and inseparable from it. It is symptomatic of its utter success in permeating the social fabric that so many of us have become mere commodities who are bought and sold, consume “stuff” and “own” things (My Career, My Space, My School etc.)

Muppets arise

Some weeks ago in the New York Times, Greg Smith, a celebrated executive director of Goldman Sachs, wrote:

“Today is my last day at Goldman Sachs. After almost 12 years at the firm ... I can honestly say that the environment now is as toxic and destructive as I have ever seen it ... It makes me ill how callously people talk about ripping their clients off. Over the past 12 months I have seen five different managing directors refer to their own clients as ‘Muppets.’ ”

Well, they are just being honest, Greg. There is no point describing what happens, with all its ugly exploitation, violence and suffering, and whining about it. “Oh what a tragic world we all endure ... . ” As Marx once famously said, “The point is, to change it.”

Capitalism cannot be tinkered round the edges to be reformed, or made nice. It must be dismantled root and branch, and a new society, one built upon human need, goodwill and generosity, must replace it.  

 

Next article – Spain’s King Juan Carlos: Let them eat elephant?

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