Menendez: It is not OK to spend money

Citigroup might spend $10 million to remodel its suite of executive offices. The bank says that it is reducing office space and head count, and that remodeling -- moving its executives from two floors to one -- will save money in the long run. Maybe what the bank says is wrong. I don't know. But in the post-AIG world, it seems you really don't need to advance any kind of argument to publicly embarrass a company:

"Maybe there's some rational argument" for the remodeling, said Senator Robert Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat and a member of the Senate Banking Committee. "But I think our friends in the banking and financial universe have to understand that they have to stop living in an alternate parallel reality." Given the nation's economic challenges, "people simply don't understand those types of expenditures," he said.

This makes me embarrassed that Robert Menendez is a US Senator. If there is a "rational argument" in favor of doing something that "people simply don't understand," what should the role of an elected offical be? One theory is that the elected official should support the "rational" policy in question, and attempt to offer the public "reasons" for why this is the right thing to do. Menendez's theory seems to be that an elected offical should act like a ignorant demogogue and indulge public ignorance. But maybe I'm stuck in the alternate parallel reality and just don't get what's going on here.

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Conor Clarke is the editor, with Michael Kinsley, of Creative Capitalism. He was previously a fellow at The Atlantic and an editor at The Guardian. More

Conor Clarke is the editor, with Michael Kinsley, of Creative Capitalism, an economics blog that was recently published in book form by Simon and Schuster. He was previously a fellow at The Atlantic and an editor at The Guardian. He is also on Twitter.

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