“The human toll here looks to be much worse than the economic toll, and we can be grateful for that.”
—CNBC’s financial guru Larry Kudlow, discussing the economic implications of the Japanese earthquake and its aftermath—a legitimate topic—while giving an instructive demonstration of how tunnel-vision and focus on one objective above all else can disable an ethics alarm, momentarily, or even permanently.
The quote speaks for itself, but here are a few comments:
- Kudlow will apologize and say that he didn’t mean it. At the moment he said it, in fact, he did mean it. I have no doubts about that at all.
- What this statement implies is not unusual. What is unusual is that it was spoken on the air.
- Because Kudlow is a conservative, expect this quote to be held up as an example of innate conservative callousness. In fact, we all are guilty of this kind of thought, when there is a topic, mission or objective that we are extremely dedicated to and focused on. When the World Trade Center was bombed, my theater company was premiering a new musical that I had directed, scheduled to open that week. I remember thinking to myself, “Thank goodness this happened now and not later in the week.” Later, I learned that other members of the company and productions had thought the same thing.
- If all of the bloggers, journalists and talking heads who will now paint Kudlow as an unfeeling monster would think back and recall the times their values were similarly warped by passion or tunnel vision, they might temper their criticism, because it would be fair to use his statement as a lesson for all of us, rather than present it as proof of Kudlow’s special callousness. They won’t, however, because they are not interested in being fair.
- One has to wonder, though, why Kudlow didn’t get at least a little <ding!> from his muted ethics alarm when he heard this come out of his mouth.
26 thoughts on “Unethical Quote of the Week: CNBC Financial Analyst Larry Kudlow”
I have no use for Kudlow, but this strikes me as more slip of the lip or indeed simply bad phrasing than an ethical lapse. If what you cite were the entirety of his commentary, if his remarks were in print rather than spoken ad lib, if we knew more of the context, I might think otherwise. Rhetoric matters, of course, but Kudlow’s point seems to have been that, given that we all know the horrible human toll, at least the economic disaster doesn’t seem to be as bad: indeed, we can be “grateful” for that.
I only half agree. Sure, it was a slip, but it was a slip that came from a genuine set of priorities—to a financial wonk like Kudlow, his first interest and priority is American dollars, not Japanese lives. And I don’t think there’s anything surprising or dastardly about it—it’s just something we have to stop, think about, and admit that we shouldn’t be thinking this way.
OK. I saw his “apology.” He’s an asshat.
“I did not mean to say human toll in Japan less important than economic toll.Talking about markets.I flubbed the line. Sincere apology”–Twitter
It was a quasi-Pazuzu.
This is typical. this country is always more concerned with money than lives. just look at the resaults of the recent elections
Verrrry interesting…but facile.Which was the pro-money over lives position in the, say, 2008 election?
I admit i made a broad statement. But one has to admit that their is a portion of this country whose only concern is the bottom line. Look at the health care debate the big issue amongst us common folk is the idea that if i have insurance why should i care if some one else doesn’t . so let me amend my statement. this country among the working middle class and corporations is extreamly self concerned which leads to unethical comments and actions.
What an oversimplification! How about questioning the logic of handicapping the economy, and the fairness of sacrificing choice to assist those who could afford insurance, but don’t buy it, or those who can’t afford it because of their own poor choices? Why should I have to help pay to insure the kids of a family who had more than they could afford? It’s not just self-interest, it’s equity. Just accepting advocacy talking points as the whole truth leads to the kinds of over-generalizations you seem to like.
Poor Choices, lets discuss these poor choice. Better yet lets discuss what are the supposed good choices. So what is It that constitutes a good choice. I wanted to attend college when i was eightteen. My mother on the other hand wanted a new house. so there went my funding. But thats ok. Then i got married to A women who already had a child and the bad choice she made with that was walking alone at night. That child had to be on government health care. However i aggree that there are those who could afford insurance and claim they cant. But I have to wonder What type of life you have led and where your from. See i think the problem is we have people who have never had any problems. And then their ego makes them think that they achieved this through good decission making on their part. And most of these people who you think deserve nothing from you allow you to have the success that you know enjoy they pick and package your food bring you your cloths and basicaly keep your life running so that people like you can write about how the only reason they are poor are because they made bad choices and your perfect. Further more you just admitted you are more concerned with your own money than someone elses life simply because you view them as less than yourself
also isnt saying that poverty is caused by poor dicisions and over simplication
Sure, but I didn’t say that. I implied, correctly, that some poverty (and in fact a lot of it) IS caused by poor choices. And to help those whose poverty isn’t, those who made good choices, sacrificed and worked hard, also end up helping those who didn’t make good choices. That may be fair and it may not, but it’s not as simple as you suggest.
And I think you are making an awful lot of assumptions from nothing. Nobody, but nobody, has “never had any problems.” What a fatuous thing to say. Some people are lucky, and some people aren’t, and immature people can’t stand that, and want to somehow even out the vicissitudes of existence. You play the cards you are dealt the best you can, and you help people whenever you can. My parents scrimped and saved their whole lives so that my sister and I could go to college on their dime. Your mother chose otherwise. I was lucky, that’s all. You weren’t. That doesn’t mean my parents’ sacrifices have to compensate for the fact that your mother wouldn’t put her money into her son’s future. My Dad, on the other hand, was dirt poor, worked his way through Harvard on a foot blown up by a hand grenade, and dedicated his life to his family. He had more problems than you can dream of, persevered, and succeeded. He taught me that nobody owes me a thing, but that we all owe society our best.
Your generalizations are simple-minded, facile, and insulting.
this is a loss. people like you always, say the same thing. what my parents tought me and all that blah and bye the way didn’t your dad get the gi grant or did he refuse it on princible.
“or those who can’t afford it because of their own poor choices? ” i think u did say exactly what i thought you said. But hey you get the big bucks so ill just go with whatever you say. thats what people like me do. Us simple minded folk.
And all things are simple its people like you who claim its complicated. I think it helps you with you ease your mind.
You’ve crossed about six lines with your last few comments, so I’m going to let you sit in a corner for a while and cool off. I really don’t appreciate the working-class hero crap, or gratuitous personal attacks. Take some time before you post again—maybe try punctuating, doing some proof-reading. I’m sure you aren’t really a bitter, cliche-spouting simpleton, but you sure are coming off like one.
Or the fact that they are dimwits. Do you really believe that there are no people who cause their own career, life, and financial problems? I have a crappy credit rating and a crushing mortgage, and its my own damn fault. I know from personal experience how bad decisions, carelessness, inattention and bad luck can throw anyone off the track.
Your last sentence is spot on, however.
Bitterness is not becoming. Your problems are not my fault. Why would my father, permanently disabled in WWII, turn down the GI Bill benefits? What principle was that? It was a good program and continues to be, fair compensation for the lost opportunities of those who fight for us. What’s the matter with you?
I think i need to clear up.Im not advocating frre hand outs and i don’t intend to be personal. I agree in fact i have seen first hand that there are many ppl that dont take advantage of the oppertunities that are out there. I talk simple for one reason alone when you talk about how complicated things are other people take those complications as an excuse to cut things like pell grants low income housing and medicade if you are in favor of cutting those programs then we have nothin g more to disguss if you are not than we got caught up in language and i appologize
Sorry JL—your posts are getting more incoherent, more careless, more emotional, and less easy to read. I mean it. I’ll post your next reasoned, non-stream of consciousness comment if it has a minimum number of typos. Time out.
It may have been a selfish and heartless thing to say, but it is likely to be quite correct and true.
The human toll is basically confined to friends and family of the victims, regardless of the crocadile tears of the great humanitarian collective. Grief is not so easily shared, though sympathy may try to disguise itself as such.
The economic toll can propagate through all economies and at all levels, and has the potential of being more damaging to more lives across the planet. Just as the real estate/mortgage fiasco has tanked a major part of the economy, hurting more than just mortgage holders and hedge fund robber barons.
Get off your sanctimonious high horse; it’s unethical to be so intellectually dishonest.
At the risk of being uncivil: bite me. Why don’t you actually read the post before writing like a pompous jackass? Or perhaps you didn’t comprehend it, which is not my problem…it’s mighty clear:
1) I didn’t say what Kudlow said wasn’t true.
2) I also said the the criticism Kudlow would get would be largely unfair.
3) His comment WAS unethical, because it sounds callous, it was carelessly put, it reflects badly on his nation, the media, employers and his supporters, and he could have said essentially exactly the same thing, if he had been thinking and speaking carefully as a professional, which is his obligation. And if he had a functioning Ethics Alarm, he would have heard his own words and said, “That didn’t come out quite right. Obviously, I would rather see thousands of people get killed than to have adverse economic results. But if the one had to occur, at least we don’t have financial catastrophe on top of it. I’m sorry for my phrasing.”
Meanwhile, I stand behind what I write, and don’t throw out gratuitous insults under an undisclosed identity. Read the Comments rules next time. Here, I’ll even give you a link: https://ethicsalarms.com/comment-policies/ Maybe you can read them more carefully than you did the post.
You put it under “Unethical Quote of the Week”
Ethics is NOT the same as …
“because it sounds callous, it was carelessly put, it reflects badly on his nation, the media, employers and his supporters, and he could have said essentially exactly the same thing, if he had been thinking and speaking carefully as a professional, which is his obligation. ”
Perhaps YOU could speak more carefully and professionaly.
So really, if you are going to hold yourself out as an ethics judge, you need to abide by your own standards. And saying “Bite me” doesn’t really rise to that level. Sorry if you feel so defensive to someone challenging you a bit.
Frankly, I baffled by what “gratuitous insults” I may have offered. I fail to see any under my post. Would you be so kind as to point out what you find so insulting and gratuitous?
Again, by posting here, you agree to abide by the posting policies. Read them and you will understand”Bite me.” Which, like many uncivil comments, is sometimes justified nonetheless. As incivility goes, it’s pretty mild. Straight from my “Mystery Science Theater 3000” tee shirt.
Like many lawyers, you don’t know what ethics is. A needless comment that is hurtful and reflects badly on one’s employers is, in fact, unethical. It’s not corrupt, or criminal, or dishonest. it’s unethical. Learn something.
Both “sanctimonious” and “intellectually dishonest” are gratuitous and uncalled for, at least in this instance. And if you keep making comments that are in direct ignorance of the original post, I’m not posting them.
Larry” pump & dump Kudlow” was just doing his job as a PAWN for the big boys ! Perhaps its time to retire & attend more AA meetings & focus on steps 11 & 12 !