By Michael Lewis
From the moment I left Yale and started working for Goldman Sachs, I've felt uneasy interacting with those who don't. It's not that I think less of outsiders than I did while I remained among you. It's just that I feel your envy and know that nothing I do or say will ever persuade you that I am no more than human.
Thus, like many of my colleagues, I have adopted a strategy of never leaving Goldman Sachs, apart from a few brief attempts to make what outsiders call "love." Goldman people recognize the importance of replicating themselves.
Today, the sheer volume of irresponsible media commentary has forced us to reconsider our public-relations strategy. With every uptick in our share price, it's clearer that we who are inside Goldman must open a dialogue with you who are not. Not for our benefit, but for yours.
America stands at a crossroads, and Goldman Sachs now owns both of them. In choosing which road to take, ordinary Americans must not be distracted by unproductive resentment toward the toll-takers. To that end, we would like to dispel several false and insidious rumors.
Rumor No. 1: Goldman Sachs controls the government.
Every ninth-grader knows the U.S. government has three branches. Goldman owns just one of these outright; the second we simply rent; and the third we have no interest in.
What small interest we maintain in the government is, we feel, in the public interest. The financial crisis has its roots in a single easily identifiable source: others' envy of Goldman Sachs.
The bozos at Merrill Lynch, the dimwits at Citigroup, the nimrods at Lehman Brothers, the louts at Bear Stearns, and even that momentarily useful lunatic at AIG took risks that no non-Goldman person should take, in a pathetic attempt to replicate our returns.
Now we are working with Tim Geithner and Congress to ensure that we alone are allowed to take the sort of risks that might destroy the financial system.
Rumor No. 2: When the government bailed out AIG and paid off its gambling debts, it saved Goldman Sachs.
The charge isn't merely insulting, but also ignorant. Less responsible journalists continue to bring up the $12.9 billion we received from AIG as if it were some kind of big deal to us. But as our CFO explained back in March, our profits from AIG "rounded to zero."
People who don't work at Goldman Sachs find this implausible: How could $12.9 billion round to zero? Easy - you just need to understand the mathematics. At Goldman, we always round to the nearest $50 billion. Think of it that way, and you can see that $12.9 billion isn't even close to not rounding to zero.
Rumor No. 3: As the government will eat the losses if Goldman Sachs goes bust, Goldman shouldn't be allowed to keep making massive financial bets. At the very least, the $11.4 billion already set aside for its employees in 2009 - $386,429 a head for the first six months - is unfair, as taxpayers have borne much of the risk that generated the profits.
Really, we don't know where to begin with this. It's wrong-headed in so many ways!
Let's begin with the idea that taxpayers are running a bigger risk than we are. The billions they stand to lose are trivial; after all, they round to zero. The real risk, when you think about it even for a minute, is the risk we take: that Goldman will cease to exist, and we will cease to be Goldman employees. To flirt with such tragedy, we obviously need to be paid.
Rumor No. 4: Goldman employees all look alike.
Several recent newspaper photos have revealed that a surprising number of Goldman workers are white, male, and bald. That non-Goldman people glance at them and think, "Holy crap, they even look alike!" shows how deep anti-Goldman bigotry runs in American life.
If we bear some faint resemblance to one another, and to creatures from the 24th century, it is only because our superior powers of reasoning lead us to hold in our minds exactly the same thoughts at exactly the same time. A shared uninterest in growing hair, for instance, is an expression of healthy like-mindedness. "The world is a pool table," our naked-headed CEO likes to tell us. "And all the people in it are either stripes or solids. You alone are the cue balls."
Rumor No. 5: Goldman Sachs is "a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money."
This, from a recent issue of Rolling Stone, is transparently false. For starters, vampire squids don't feed on human flesh. Ergo, no vampire squid would wrap itself around the face of humanity, except by accident. And nothing that happens at Goldman Sachs - nothing that Goldman Sachs thinks, feels, or does - happens by accident.