Arrayed around a long mahogany table in the White House state dining room last week, the CEOs of the most powerful financial institutions in the world offered several explanations for paying high salaries to their employees — and, by extension, to themselves.
"These are complicated companies," one CEO said. Offered another: "We're competing for talent on an international market."
But President Barack Obama wasn't in a mood to hear them out. He stopped the conversation and offered a blunt reminder of the public's reaction to such explanations. "Be careful how you make those statements, gentlemen. The public isn't buying that."
"My administration," the president added, "is the only thing between you and the pitchforks."
Speaking of Washington taking back Manhattan, the travel section in this Sunday's Washington Post (pictured) was all about Washingtonians…taking back Manhattan, and with barely disguised glee. Sample schadenfreude:
For so long, they have been taking Manhattan.
They, as in the Wall Streeters who counted their bonuses in increments of millions; they, as in Europeans who laughed at the quaintness of the dollar. The coveted restaurants, the hotels with infinite thread-count sheets, the rarefied atmosphere of cultural centers, the designer shops that sniff at the idea of a sale — it was all theirs.
But the times they are a-changin', as anyone who doesn't live under a rock can readily attest. Increasingly, recession-battered Manhattan is becoming a place that's ripe for the taking, instead of ripe for getting taken. Our moment to reclaim the city has arrived.