Most Americans don't begrudge great riches to anybody who works hard, takes real risks, and creates things of value. As evidenced by the positive outpouring for Steve Jobs, great entrepreneurs are still celebrated. But there is an implicit social contract that links rewards to effort and accomplishment. If many people now believe that corporate America has violated that contract, is it surprising? At many big corporations, the senior managers have seemed more interested in stuffing their pockets than building for the long term. Gargantuan pay packages are only the start of it. Think boards of directors packed with patsies, books cooked to juice earnings, potential whistleblowers silenced, golden parachutes, and finally taxpayers obliged to save expensively tanned hides. The thing that is really surprising is that it has taken this long for public anger to well up.Matt Taibbi, in Rolling Stone, made a very similar point earlier:
And we hate the rich? Come on. Success is the national religion, and almost everyone is a believer. Americans love winners. But that's just the problem. These guys on Wall Street are not winning – they're cheating. And as much as we love the self-made success story, we hate the cheater that much more.
In this country, we cheer for people who hit their own home runs – not shortcut-chasing juicers like Bonds and McGwire, Blankfein and Dimon.