“Goldman will surely deny that its risk-taking is subsidized by the taxpayer — but then so did Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, right up to the bitter end. An implicit government guarantee is only free until it’s not, and when the bill comes due it tends to be huge. So for the moment, Goldman Sachs — or should we say Goldie Mac? — enjoys the best of both worlds: outsize profits for its traders and shareholders and a taxpayer backstop should anything go wrong.”

“So what’s wrong with Goldman posting $3.44 billion in second-quarter profits, what’s wrong with the company so far earmarking $11.4 billion in compensation for its employees? What’s wrong is that this is not free-market earnings but an almost pure state subsidy.”

Pop quiz: which one of the above quotes comes from Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi and which comes from the editorial page at the Wall Street Journal.

We’ll get to the answer in a bit. What fascinating is that it’s so hard to tell which is the long-standing voice of capitalism and which is the writer for the one time icon of the counter-culture. To put it differently: what could have brought us to the point where both are aiming their scornful analysis at the most successful firm on Wall Street?
In a word: Bailout.

It’s taken some time but finally people from all over the political spectrum are looking up and noticing that the banner waving on the flagpole stands for Bailout Nation rather than the land of the free. And they’re pissed.

Hank PaulsonNot everyone understands why they are pissed off. For instance, the Congressmen grilling Hank Paulson today are thoroughly confused. Some want to know why Paulson didn’t fire Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis. Others want to know where Paulson got the temerity to threaten Lewis’s job. Still others just seem to want a chance to vent.

But Matt Taibbi, whose famous Rolling Stone article proposed a somewhat absurd conspiracy theory that described Goldman as a bubble machine, has finally figured it out. What’s wrong with Goldman isn’t that is evil or even uniquely evil. What’s wrong is that it is pocketing money that it