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Jon Talton

Analysis and commentary on economic news, trends and issues, with an emphasis on Seattle and the Northwest.

October 5, 2010 at 10:05 AM

Goldman only wants good things for Microsoft. Really…

Goldman Sachs’ latest research note on Microsoft would be one more piece of back-seat driving if it weren’t so influential in the capital markets. Instead, it’s dangerous, both for the company and the Puget Sound economy.

It’s fair enough for Goldman to cut Microsoft shares from “buy” to “neutral” considering they have underperformed the S&P 500 and the company’s vulnerability on Windows. That’s the kind of guidance an investment bank is paid to offer its clients. So, too, are some of its suggested strategic moves, such as increasing the dividend. But the note also pushes for “stepping up cost discipline,” and that means layoffs.

This is precisely the mindset on Wall Street that is continuing the worst jobs crisis since the Great Depression. Bloated companies are long gone. Now Wall Street wants to pick the bones, no matter the consequences for the companies or the country. Workers are not assets or human capital of great potential. They are merely costs. As for communities? This New York investment bank could care less. It is demanding “growth” whether it is sustainable or not.

So here’s an outfit that not only performs no productive work, merely moving money around. One, indeed, that was at the heart of the financial meltdown and made a tidy profit off it. And it wants to micromanage one of the great American productive success stories of the past century.

Goldman epitomizes the corruption and dysfunction of the capital markets. No longer do they exist largely to fund enterprise with wide benefits, but as a casino to make money by “trading” and cooking up exotic swindles. Nor is this “creative destruction,” where a dynamic market sweeps away companies that have outlived their usefulness and replaces them with the new. If it were, millions wouldn’t be unable to find work. If it were, so many industries would not be highly consolidated and controlled by a politically powerful oligarchy.

The regional economy has rebounded as much as it has partly because no new major layoffs have happened at big employers, including Microsoft. Let’s hope Ballmer and Co. are stubborn enough to take the useful advice and put the anti-employee ideology in the trash bin.

Today’s Econ Haiku:

787’s wake

Will keep other planes far back

In the market, too?

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