Bloomberg ran a story by Alice Schroeder yesterday that just seems too good to be true:
“I just wrote my first reference for a gun permit,” said a friend, who told me of swearing to the good character of a Goldman Sachs Group Inc. banker who applied to the local police for a permit to buy a pistol. The banker had told this friend of mine that senior Goldman people have loaded up on firearms and are now equipped to defend themselves if there is a populist uprising against the bank.
The Warren Buffett biographer (The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life) argues that these brilliant, seemingly-infallible Masters of the Universe are no longer feeling safe in their Manhattan fortresses with a furious public approaching, bearing pitchforks and torches. (Note to my financial advisor: Move my investments into pitchforks and torches.) It’s Frankenstein for the 2009 economy. This story has it all: populist revenge, bad guys on the run, the promise of violence, Main Street delivering a beatdown to Wall Street. Best of all, we’ve got a company known for their prescience forecasting their own potential demise, like a psychic forecasting her own violent end.
Accordingly, the story is getting lots of attention. The New York Post loves it. CBS News repeats the story uncritically. The New York Times is carrying it. Air America is frothing over it, concluding that it’s “patently obvious” that “Goldman is preparing to unload another monstrous round of bonuses.” Gothamist exists for this kind of story. The SEUI is using it as a rallying point for protest. Matt Taibbi thinks it’s hilarious. All of this attention may be what led Bloomberg to run a four-minute interview with Schroeder about the story on their TV channel.
It’s a really great story, but how do we know that Bloomberg’s story is the real deal? Schroeder says she knows a guy who knows a guy who knows some guys at Goldman who he says have “loaded up” on guns. That sort of sourcing doesn’t inspire confidence. And, wait, Goldman is “famous” for their “prescience” and “foresight”? Aren’t they better known for having such a tremendous lack of foresight that they nearly brought down the US economy? And what’s this from her source about writing a reference for a gun permit? New York’s famously stringent concealed carry application doesn’t require anything of the sort. (Neither does Connecticut. Note that New York has no reciprocity agreement with other states, so getting a concealed carry permit in, say, New Jersey would do a Manhattan investor no good.) Schroeder’s friend—and sole source for this story—appears to be lying when he claims to have written such a reference.
It’s possible that Goldman Sachs executives are arming themselves to the teeth, preparing for a proletariat uprising. But there’s certainly no evidence of that in Bloomberg’s story.