This Is What You Get When You Mess With U.S.


This bit of Harold Meyerson grave-dancing on Wall Street, published in today's Washington Post, is one of those boomkarkable, people-really-did-think-that-back-then kind of columns:

At the risk of speaking ill of the dead, what good was Lehman Brothers, anyway? And if Merrill Lynch was so bullish on America, why is it that, despite the torrent of foreign investment that flowed in to Lehman, Merrill and their Wall Street peers over the past half-decade, so few jobs were created in America during that period of "recovery"? […]

Airports, bridges and roads are decaying. Rural wind-power facilities cannot light cities because our electrical grid has not been expanded. […]

Someone needs to invest in the United States of America. For the past decade and, in a broader sense, for the entire duration of the Reagan era, both government and Wall Street have opted not to.

At the risk of taking Harold Meyerson even half seriously, this particular financial crisis he finds so cheery is based in significant part on financial institutions of all sorts getting involved with the sale of mortgages to U.S. residents who, it turned out, could not afford them. In other words, banks and other mortgage lenders–including those with explicit mandates from the government to expand the pool of home-ownership to lower-income Americans–went belly-up partly because they invested in America.

As for airports, bridges, roads, and the electricity grid, one reason private capital doesn't invest much in preventing their decay, is that the authorities that oversee them generally aren't private. Blaming investment banks for the crapitude of, say, LAX is like blaming the L.A. Unified School District for the share-price plummet of Washington Mutual: It does not make sense.

A final note. There probably wasn't a country in the world that didn't, at some point in the 1990s, attempt to create its own replica of the Silicon Valley. How does Meyerson suppose this America-led technology boom, which knowledge workers like him especially benefit from to this day, got its financing? Or is it just that the only kind of investment in America that qualifies as Investment in America must involve unionized jobs at the kind of factories Meyerson himself would never work for?