September 18, 2008

Wall Street Fun-And-Games

Bush Nyse

Bush Nyse 2

Bush Nyse 3

On Wall Street, you know that America’s economic leadership rests on strong and flexible capital markets. Capital markets connect entrepreneurs with the investment they need to turn their ideas into new businesses. America’s capital markets are the deepest, the broadest, and the most efficient in the world. Yet excessive litigation and over-regulation threaten to make our financial markets less attractive to investors, especially in the face of rising competition from capital markets abroad. To keep America’s economic leadership, America must be the best place in the world to invest capital and to do business.

— from George Bush State of the Economy Report, New York Federal Hall, January 31, 2007

The desperately eroding Wall Street situation, with its thorough absence of accountability, reminded me of these photos from this photo-op Presidency.

They were taken on 1/31/07 during a surprise appearance at the NYSE , noted by the White House as just the second time a sitting president had visited the exchange floor during business hours. The guy just to the left in the top shot, by the way, is none other than the (soon-to-be-dumped) head of the bloodied Merrill Lynch, John Thain.

There are so many elements to call out here, most of them sad.  The broadcasting of the flag patch on the trader’s arm speaks to how Bush used 9/11, and “the urgency” of patriotism, not just to suspend norms and protocols but to help justify the “free market” practice of looking the other way.  The baseball shot (which I’ve actually run before) has all kinds of implications, one, for example, modeling business as fun-and-games.  What these pics also document is just how much Bush’s frame of reference involved cheerleading as a substitute for governance.  When, in retrospect, a steward or manager was desperately needed, what Bush offered, instead, was, yes, celebrity.

complete White House NYSE photo gallery

Dow Finishes Day Lower Than When Bush Took Office (Mother Jones)

(images: Paul Morse/

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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