CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A sad, anger-tinged resignation letter from an executive at Goldman Sachs reminds us to ask, in the context of the Republican presidential primary, how were things going before President Obama screwed up the economy?
Greg Smith, after 12 years with the firm, managing worldwide assets of $1 trillion, wrote a public letter of resignation to his superiors and to The New York Times because, he said, the culture of the firm has been polluted.
No longer do Goldman executives put the clients' interests first, says Smith. You get ahead by "persuading your clients to invest in the stocks or other products that we are trying to get rid of because they are not seen as having a lot of potential profit."
You remember from congressional hearings how Goldman, among others, would take toxic mortgage-backed securities and wrap them up in bright, shiny bonds and sell them for a profit. Sell enough of these brightly packaged, noxious assets to another firm and you can make money betting it will fail.
That is the story of Lehman Brothers, the Wall Street nosedive and the Great Recession.
So Smith's public resignation is not that of just another disgruntled employee; he's talking about a cultural change that can do terrible damage.
He mourned the loss of a culture that "revolved around teamwork, integrity, a spirit of humility, and always doing right by our clients. The culture was the secret sauce that made this place great ... for 143 years."
Not to put too fine a point on it, but you'll notice that Smith did not blame Big Government or sinister, lurking socialism for what had gone wrong on Wall Street. He blamed a climate of excessive corporate greed.
Which brings us back to the halcyon days of yore when George W. Bush was president, Wall Street was virtually unregulated, making money, and everybody was happy.
For those who believe all Washington bureaucrats are arrogant and free enterprise is vestal in its purity, Smith will invite you to read internal emails by managing directors in which they refer to their clients as "muppets."
The Great Recession wasn't caused by overreaching Big Government but by the overarching greed of unregulated Big Business.