With the Susan B. Komen Foundation’s pink ribbons tied up in knots this past week by a public relations disaster, and Republicans apparently convinced that global warming was simply an attempt by Al Gore to crack a joke, so-called “pink washing” and “green washing” are no longer as attractive to big businesses looking to varnish their public record. And so it was a convenient but very telling move when, just yesterday, the nation’s largest gay rights organization announced that Lloyd Blankfein would be its first “national corporate spokesperson” for marriage equality.
Mr. Blankfein, when not promoting the rights of same sex couples to wed, is better known for his role as head of Goldman Sachs, the Wall Street mega-firm that has made billions by divorcing families from their homes and retirees from their life savings.
My favorite part is when Blankfein says, “Equality is just good business.” This from the man who, in 2010 in the middle of a financial downturn that he helped create, took home $13.2 million dollars in compensation — or more than 266 times the median American household income of $49,445 for the same year. Put another way, in 2010, Mr. Blankfein earned more in a day-and-a-half than ordinary Americans earned in an entire year.
Oh, but you say, he’s running a successful business. Alas, Goldman’s 2010 earnings were down 37% from 2009 and in 2010, the firm paid $550 million to settle a Securities and Exchange Commission fraud suit charging that Goldman misled investors by selling misleading dud mortgage securities — betting against their own clients to make money on the housing market’s collapse. And in 2011, the Federal Reserve fined and rebuked Goldman for so-called “robo-signing” foreclosures, a mechanized process riddled with errors that wrongfully kicked millions of Americans out of their homes.
Meanwhile, pre-crash, Blankfein’s compensation in 2007 was a whopping $68.5 million. It seems inequality and injustice are very much the core of Blankfein and Goldman’s business practices.
But there’s no evil that cannot be undone by a You Tube video of a smiling, jacketless Wall Street executive, right?
Further rattled by the very popular, populist uprisings of Occupy Wall Street, it’s no surprise that Lloyd Blankfein is trying to repair his and his firm’s image by playing activist. And no doubt his support for marriage equality is both genuine and long-held. What is surprising is the willingness of the often disappointing but still modestly principled Human Rights Campaign to celebrate Blankfein as a gay rights hero when he has been so consistently and rightfully disdained as a villain on so many other justice issues of our time. I doubt that millions of gay families facing foreclosure are relieved that Lloyd Blankfein supports them being carried over the threshold of homeless shelters.