Post Business Columnist Hopes Financial Markets 'Burn, Baby, Burn'

The financial sector must “burn, baby, burn” to teach financial professionals a lesson about priorities and motives, according to a reporter-turned-columnist for The Washington Post.

Steven Pearlstein, a one-time reporter for the Post who now pens a column for the newspaper, wrote February 20 that “the best thing that could happen to our economy is for a dozen high-profile hedge funds to collapse; for investment banking to enter a long, deep freeze; for a major bank to fail; and for the price of a typical Park Avenue duplex to fall by 30 percent.”

“For only then,” Pearlstein wrote, “might we finally stop genuflecting before the altar of unregulated financial markets and insist that Wall Street serve the interest of Main Street, rather than the other way around.”

He didn’t explain how hedge funds collapsing or banks failing would help Americans. Instead, he opted to cheer for a situation that would see millions of people suffer, admitting his was a “harsh and vengeful solution, and there will be lots of collateral damage.”

Pearlstein admitted to having a “perverse satisfaction from the ever-widening crisis that has engulfed Wall Street, humbling its hypocrisy and corruption” and criticized “the obscene levels of compensation [financial wizardry] has generated for a select group of Wall Street executives and money managers.”

That a self-described “responsible business columnist for a respected newspaper” would engage in such blatant – and acknowledged – “schadenfreude“ is simply breathtaking. Unfortunately Pearlstein, a former reporter himself, represents the views expressed by many of his media colleagues.

Media who are supposed to remain unbiased -- as a columnist, Pearlstein has the right to express his opinion -- routinely fail to present both sides of their economic stories, seeing financial turmoil where experts see none, at times even predicting a depression.

Economists are optimistic the United States economy will not see a recession in 2008, but the media have repeatedly warned of a recession, a practice that could affect consumer confidence and actually contribute to economic turmoil.

Most may simply be victims of the media truth that “good news is no news,” but others like Pearlstein should take some time to reflect on their own motives in hoping for financial crisis just so someone they don’t like learns a lesson.