Bailouts help expose culture of greed
When will enough finally be enough?
The corporate culture of greed laid bare in an age of bailouts and skyrocketing unemployment has sparked outrage by those left on the sidelines watching top executives lavish themselves with perks.
People will never stop being greedy, said Luis Rivera, 23, of Manhattan. Whenever theres money involved, people are going to want more and more. Its sad.Psychologists say those who rise to the top of the cutthroat world of high finance can be overtaken with greed and often will not stop acquiring and spending even when others suffer the consequences of financial excess.
On Thursday came word that Citigroup, which has gotten $45 billion in federal funds, will spend tens of millions of dollars on new offices for its CEO and his deputies. Two months earlier, the company received a public lashing for ordering a new private jet.
For many New Yorkers, this was a slap in the face after almost a daily barrage of news about bailed out companies continuing to throw swanky parties and pay out hefty bonuses.
This is one of the craziest things Ive heard, Francois Merazga, of Manhattan, said of Citigroups plans. I have friends who lost a job and who are running to an unemployment agency.
Some experts believe greed is a sickness akin to alcoholism, others say it is a result of overindulgence early in life or the typical behavior of a narcissist.
Theyre never satisfied, said David Salvage, a Manhattan psychologist. People who experience this sense of greed often think they are above the rules that apply to everyone else.
Steve Salmi, a psychologists who helps screen applicants for executive jobs, said attributes like greed and an inflated self-image are common in the field. They are often paired with traits such as risk-taking and an ability to perform under pressure, which lead to success in corporate America. Once surrounded by like-minded people, material excess becomes an admired status symbol.
You see behaviors that for the average person seem out of bounds, he said.
In the case of those who pursue wealth at great personal cost, such as admitted Ponzi schemer Bernard Madoff, many experts see a kind of compulsion or personality disorder.
They drive further and further to get more and more because its the only carrot they see in front of them, said Mel Schwartz, a psychotherapist in Manhattan.
Marlene Naanes and Heather Haddon contributed to this story.