Sam Stein reports that Citigroup, which only still exists as a firm thanks to taxpayer largess, was hosting a conference call to help mobilize opposition to the Employee Free Choice Act. This, it seems, is capitalism. First you manage your business so catastrophically badly that your company not only becomes worthless, but that it threatens to destroy the livelihoods of billions of people around the planet. Second, you get the taxpayer to keep you in business. And third, you turn around and warn that higher wages for workers might destroy the world economy! As I’ve said before I don’t think we want congress meddling with the details of business decisions at major companies, even companies that are receiving taxpayer support. But there’s a fairly clear case to be made that firms on the public dole shouldn’t be engaged in lobbying or political activities.
Meanwhile, there’s a broader point to be made about the prestige of business in general and financiers in particular. A tendency develops to think that businessmen not only have in practice a loud voice in economic policy decisions because they’re so rich and politicians and media organizations are so corrupt, but that they deserve a loud voice in economic policy decisions because they’re so knowledgeable. But, look, I could take a bank and render its stock worthless. And so could Andy Stern or my cousins in grade school. These guys haven’t shown themselves to be knowledgeable about anything other than enriching themselves and there’s no particular reason to take their opinions about Employee Free Choice or unions or taxes or anything else especially seriously.