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AIG CEO Shows What is Wrong with Wall Street

Tuesday, 18 Aug 2009 09:18 AM

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There is something wrong with Wall Street. Contrary to popular opinion, it’s not that people on Wall Street make too much money. It’s not that people on Wall Street take too much risk. It’s not even greed.

What’s wrong with Wall Street is work ethic.

Earlier this week, we had a perfect example. After starting on Monday as the new CEO of AIG, Robert Benmosche decided that he needed a two-week vacation to Croatia before his first month on the job is over.

So for the first month of his new job, taking over America’s largest failed company, Robert Benmosche decided to take 50 percent of that time and go on a European vacation.

Where’s the work ethic?

Taking over a company that is in the hole to the U.S. government to the tune of $180 billion dollars is a daunting task. It is a task that I am sure will require many long nights and years of stress and anxiety.

But to be so cavalier, to take a two-week vacation at the start of probably the toughest corporate job in America, is the fat-cat Wall Street mentality at its finest.

American workers had to give up their jobs and take money from their families so that the government could have enough money to bailout AIG. Does anyone seriously believe that Benmosche couldn’t have postponed his vacation?

He could have told the government and the AIG people that he could start the job after his vacation was finished. But the fact is, he doesn’t care.

Rockefeller didn’t become Rockefeller by taking vacations. Carnegie didn’t become Carnegie by taking vacations. The spirit of American capitalism has always been embodied by the American work ethic.

In a capitalistic society, the most efficient companies thrive and inefficient companies fail. Just ask yourself, how efficient can the company be if the CEO is sitting for two weeks on a beach in Croatia?

Instead of taking the easy road, taking bailouts, and looking for the quick dollar, why doesn’t Wall Street get back to basics? Instead of trying to cook up ways to inflate corporate profits, Wall Street executives should work hard to create better companies with better products and services.

If people really want change, let’s get rid of the old guard of Wall Street fat cats who don’t know what it is to work an honest day’s work. Remember, there’s nothing wrong with making a lot of money, as long as you’ve earned it.

CEOs who take two-week vacations during their first month on the job are not earning their money. It is a shame because there are many CEOs on Wall Street who work 20-hour days and stress themselves to no end in order to create better companies. Those CEOs deserve every penny. Those CEOs understand that there is no shortcut for hard work and innovation

However, the American public has gotten used to taking shortcuts. Corporations get bailouts for making bad decisions. Citizens get stimulus for buying things they can’t afford.

But remember this, you cannot borrow your way out of debt and spend your way into prosperity. Wealth must be created, not concocted.

The way to do that is through innovative ideas and hard work. There’s no way around it. The more we try and dodge doing the work, the more it comes back to bite us.

That’s what happened to dot-com companies that cooked the books to craft billion-dollar valuations. That’s what happened to mortgage brokers who couldn’t find creditworthy borrowers and then chose to focus on predatory lending. In the end, it came back to bite them.

There is an American work ethic that has been part of this land for more than 400 years. That American work ethic has established us as the world’s most preeminent superpower. That American work ethic is now slowly dying.

So wake up America. Remember your heritage. Remember your pride. Teach your children that you can’t take the easy way out, you can’t get something for nothing, and you have to earn everything in life. These are lessons to live by, and lessons that make America the land of the free and the home of the brave.

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