Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Sandbox Tactics

Three year old bullies in the sandbox don’t share their toys, throw fistfuls of grit at the other kids and take up more than their fair share of space. What we’ve got here in the banking industry are three year olds disguised as grown men and women who hog all the money, ignore pleas for fairness and refuse to provide credit. And what does Congress do? Sit in the corner and suck their thumbs, unable to pass legislation that would force banks to share what they’ve been ‘given’ with all the other kids in the playground, not just the toughies they hang around with. Something needs to be done about this bully behavior. And the wimps who refuse to stand up for themselves.

As Erik Erikson so adroitly put it, during the first year of development, trust vs. mistrust is the overriding issue facing infants. What that means is that mothers and fathers need to provide enough trust so that the baby believes his needs will be met, that someone will feed her, change his wet diaper and soothe her distress. At the same time, some amount of mistrust is healthy. After all, infants need to be able to self-soothe which is their first step towards independence and self reliance. Having to wait a little while for a parent to show up helps the baby find her thumb and tickle his own toes. More trust, some reasonable amount of mistrust and you’ll end up with a fairly healthy child who grows into an adult with a sense of fairness and cooperative spirit. Assuming the rest of the development goes along swimmingly. But whatever occurs, most agree this first year issue of trust vs. mistrust is huge.

What we’ve got here are a group of people who are on overload with mistrust. Maybe they didn’t get enough care and feeding as infants, maybe they weren’t encouraged to share, or maybe they are just a bunch of miserable bullies. Excuse me, but who actually needs millions of dollars a year when the bank or company he’s supposed to be running is about to become extinguished? Dividends for people who have plenty of money while retirement benefits plummet? Outrageous. Retention bonuses? A bonus by any other name is still a bonus. Where are these supposedly brilliant minds going to get another job when unemployment has reached new heights in every field?

I can hear that spoiled child in the sandbox yelling, “MINE!” All those who have received billions from Treasury Secretary Paulson and Bush – because they clearly are the ones doling out the candy and toys –continue to refuse to open up credit. Fireballs are being thrown all over the place and they pour on the gasoline. My guess is that if I asked the mothers of these bullies if they shared their toys in the sandbox, she’d answer with a definitive ‘NO’.