Caroline Baum: Dream New Year's resolutions for America's financial leaders
Breaking New Year's resolutions is as commonplace as making them. Yet each year we faithfully pledge to lose weight, stop smoking, imbibe less alcohol, spend more time with the family, look for a better job and find a healthier way to deal with stress.
What about public figures? Do they stoop to our level and focus on personal peccadilloes? Or do they aim high, think big, live large and put our well-being ahead of their own self- interest, consistent with their role as public servants?
One can only imagine what sort of pledges people like President Barack Obama and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke make for the 2011.
Heck, why imagine? Let's write their New Year's resolutions for them.
President Obama promises his base he will attend a weekly meeting of Tax Cutters Anonymous. He promises the business community to find another scapegoat when he wants to rally support for pet legislation. He promises labor unions it won't be them.
The Securities and Exchange Commission pledges to find someone, somewhere who is responsible for some kind of wrongdoing and actually do something about it.
Lloyd Blankfein, chairman and chief executive officer of Goldman Sachs Group Inc., resolves to perfect his Wallace Shawn imitation so that the next time he's called to testify before Congress, the audience will take him seriously.
Ben Bernanke promises to cut up his U.S.A. credit card, explain why the Q is irrelevant in quantitative easing and recognize that only death and taxes are 100 percent certain. Bernanke resolves to try again to convince the public that lax regulation, not low interest rates, bear primary responsibility for the housing bubble. Good luck.
Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner resolves to leave public service for Goldman Sachs so that reality can finally catch up with public perception.
Julian Assange, self-described Internet activist and founder of WikiLeaks, pledges to continue his crusade of releasing classified government information. All he asks in return is that the media respect his privacy.
Sarah Palin, former governor of Alaska and Republican phenom, pledges to sign on as an unofficial adviser to Fed chief Bernanke as soon as she finishes digesting the 800-odd pages (paperback edition) of Milton Friedman and Anna Schwartz's, "A Monetary History of the United States."
Larry Summers, Obama's top economic adviser who is leaving Washington (again) to return to Harvard (again), pledges to patent his unique brand of intelligence. He further promises to introduce a new seminar at Harvard's Kennedy School to train tomorrow's leaders in today's survival arts. According to the Spring 2011 course catalogue, students "will learn the skills needed to become a bipartisan leader, defined as one who is demonized by both the Left and the Right." Registration is limited to 10 students.
Bill Dudley, president of the New York Fed, resolves to explain how it is the Fed can target inflation to the nearest 0.5 percentage point when it missed the mother of all housing and credit bubbles and failed to foresee the repercussions, even as the bubble was deflating, for the U.S. and global economy.
Wall Street bankers promise to underwrite monthly seminars for employees and spouses/significant others on "Business Ethics for the 21st Century." The three-day, New Year's weekend seminar at the Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel, is oversubscribed, but there are still openings for February's retreat to Honolulu's Halekulani Hotel on Waikiki Beach.
As for yours truly, I pledge not to pick on Alan Greenspan (OK, so another New Year's resolution doesn't make it past Jan. 1), to bring you clear, insightful commentary, to shrug off the hate mail and name-calling as your problem, not mine (at least I'll try), and to keep telling it like it is to the best of my ability.
Caroline Baum, author of "Just What I Said," is a Bloomberg News columnist. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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