This morning on PRI's "The Take Away" radio show, the host, John Hockenberry (sp?) interviewed the head of banking in Lebanon.
In 2005, he made a decision to get out of any investments in those subprime mortgage derivative hedge funds etc. (or whatever they're called) and as a result, the banking system in Lebanon is sound and growing, with credit still flowing, unlike in the land of the so-called "Masters of the Universe" the good old USA.
Listening to his explanations as to why he didn't follow the lead of the world's major financial institutions, he sounded not only practical and clearheaded, he also sounded like a good old fashioned "American" banker, or like George Baily in IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE with his small Savings & Loan business.
First of all, I understood everything he said, because he spoke in regular, conversational, English, even though it's not his first language, unlike the financial wizards in our own country. Second of all, he didn't see himself as wise or better than anyone else, he just thought it didn't make sense to invest in things you couldn't really look at and evaluate, nor did he think it right to use depositor's money to take big financial risks.
When asked why he didn't have faith in the ratings companies that gave these toxic (as we now know) investments such high ratings ("triple A" as they say), he said, very practically, that these ratings companies were taking part in shaping a lot of these financial systems and products they were rating and therefore obviously couldn't be all that objective. Only he said it much simpler and without seeming to lay blame anywhere, just doing what he thought was the safer and more prudent thing to do.
As a result, not only are Lebanon's banks thriving, but the country is projecting four per cent growth this year, as opposed to our negative projection. And all this in a nation torn up only recently by a real war on their own land! And still divided in ways that threaten political stability, and in which more powerful neighbors and outside nations continue to try to exert influence and cause problems.
And on top of that, he did all this without receiving any bonuses, and on a salary of 250,000 dollars a year.
So what's our excuse?