NEW YORK (
TheStreet) -- There's a maxim I'm reminded of when members of the 1% speak as if they're breaking from the elite: It's easy to become a Buddhist after you've made your first million.
That's what struck me when I was trying to put the
New York Times op-ed from former
(GS - Get Report) derivatives vice president Greg Smith in perspective.
The situation is similar to when
Warren Buffett of
(BRK.B) talks about how it's shameful that he doesn't
pay more taxes
on his $45 billion in net worth. That one calls to mind Hollywood celebrities finding peace in a yogi's retreat in India after CMG has signed them to a long-term deal and another blockbuster is raking in hundreds of millions at the box office.
Another example: When former Russian oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky -- awarded the riches of Russia's natural resources for a song and dance back when the Soviet Union broke up -- began
calling for democracy
with an eye toward becoming the country's president, was it a sign of a higher road by a member of the 1% or simply a move for someone who had already been made comfortable enough by capitalist excess to say and do whatever he wanted?
The answer to this question doesn't really matter and, frankly, I don't think there's a straightforward answer.
How does Greg Smith fit into this? Is he still a member of the 1% or now entering the 99%, or is he just mad at his former employer and will next turn up at the helm of the JPMorgan derivatives desk (probably unlikely) for which the 99% will still despise him? Should the 99% hate Goldman more than the rest of Wall Street's profit-oriented, if they are inclined to hate to begin with?
I'm not sure how much is gained in the public's understanding of Goldman Sachs as a result of Smith's missive, any more than we can calculate what was lost when Warren Buffett referred to Lloyd Blankfein as the brother he never had and waved around the subprime CDO Abacus deal sheet at Berkshire Hathaway's annual meeting to signal the "all clear" when it comes to integrity for Goldman. All that occurred while Goldman was still facing fraud charges from the Securities and Exchange Commission.