April 30, 2010

The Misdirected Swagger of the Go Getter

Justin Katz

John Derbyshire posted a viral email from Wall Street circles that amounts to an egotist's cri de coeur:

Go ahead and continue to take us down, but you're only going to hurt yourselves. What's going to happen when we can't find jobs on the Street anymore? Guess what: We're going to take yours. We get up at 5am & work till 10pm or later. We're used to not getting up to pee when we have a position. We don't take an hour or more for a lunch break. We don't demand a union. We don't retire at 50 with a pension. We eat what we kill, and when the only thing left to eat is on your dinner plates, we'll eat that.

For years teachers and other unionized labor have had us fooled. We were too busy working to notice. Do you really think that we are incapable of teaching 3rd graders and doing landscaping? We're going to take your cushy jobs with tenure and 4 months off a year and whine just like you that we are so-o-o-o underpaid for building the youth of America. Say goodbye to your overtime and double time and a half. I'll be hitting grounders to the high school baseball team for $5k extra a summer, thank you very much.

So now that we're going to be making $85k a year without upside, Joe Mainstreet is going to have his revenge, right? Wrong! Guess what: we're going to stop buying the new 80k car, we aren't going to leave the 35 percent tip at our business dinners anymore. No more free rides on our backs. We're going to landscape our own back yards, wash our cars with a garden hose in our driveways. Our money was your money. You spent it. When our money dries up, so does yours.

One encounters this sort of swagger from people who have been successful in their careers, especially (it seems) when those careers have something to do with manipulating money. Because the content begins and ends in bellicosity, internal inconsistencies are to be expected. Note that the writer declares the inevitability of finance types' overtaking other professionals because they don't mind working hard, but then insists that they'll work as little as he claims the incumbents do.

The more essential problem with the rant is that it makes the dubious assumption not only that finance is the toughest industry in the universe, but also that it is a sort of ubercareer of which all others are pale imitations. I'd suggest, as an example, that the same drive that the writer professes mightn't serve him so well in the attempt to draw eight year olds along a path toward learning. Careers are substantively different in ways that a certain kind of smarts and ambition can't always surpass, and different people are suited to them.

As for the insinuation that finance professionals are the core consumers of the American retail and service market, I can only testify that, of all the middle-to-high-end construction projects on which I've worked, I'm not sure a single one was has been for the Wall Street set. That's a roll of the dice, to be sure, but the point is that other professionals make money, too, for actually doing, you know, stuff. Stuff that creates things and accomplishes objectives other than rolling money around.

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"Masters of the Universe"

Posted by: Warrington Faust at April 30, 2010 7:34 PM

Well said.

Posted by: David S at April 30, 2010 7:45 PM

Faust, one of the best books ever!

Bonfires of the vanities!

If anyone wants to know what Wall Street is REALLY about, read the book: The Wolf of Wall Street.

The lack of morals, ethics and the depravity is something that cannot be fathomed....these "Masters" would pump and dump stocks all day long, then go out to lunch at the local chinese place where they would be "serviced" under the table as they ate! Of course, plenty of cocaine and other drugs helped pump them up too......

When they finally get caught, no amount of penalties can ever touch the damage they have done.

I also have been in retail and construction my entire life and only had one customer who had a stock exchange "seat"...and he was a honest and long term member of the stock exchange who only invested his own money......

That quote in the blog post is blowing smoke...these guys would not know what to do if they had to dirty their greasy hair.

As it stand right now, the big banks and brokerages are something like 30-40% of our economy.......in other words, money made from money, as opposed to actually doing things.

Tell the a-hole who started that email this.....millions of Wall Street types have already lost their jobs....when Lehmans and others went under, and...guess what? I have not seen them lining up at the local Home Depot looking to set ceramic tile!

I'm not worried at all about those good for nothings. If it were up to me, I'd ship them to "re-education" camps and show them movies depicting what they did to the pensions and jobs of real workers.....

Posted by: Stuart at April 30, 2010 8:56 PM

I am not too down on Wall Street types, I had asperations top that sort of thing once. While I think that the writer may overstate the case, they do do important work. There are lots of deals where you just can't go to the bank.

Much of what Stuart says is true. I dated a bond trader back in the 80's. While I don't know about the Chinese restaurants, there was no shortage of cocaine. They used to rent a boat and take it our in Boston Harbor, past the 3 mile limit on Sundays. Wonder whatever happened to her, last I knew she was in London with Barcley's. I remember she told me you were through at 35 (a distant age for both of us), they didn't want any heart attacks on the floor.
P.S. she never finished high school.

Posted by: Warrington Faust at April 30, 2010 10:23 PM

"We're used to not getting up to pee when we have a position."

I suspect that when the author of the above does urinate it is in the sitting position. This arrogant tirade sounds as if it could have just as easily come from the self proclaimed financial genius, Steve Laffey.

Posted by: Phil at May 1, 2010 7:16 AM

"We're used to not getting up to pee when we have a position."

Now, a truly practical person would have themselves catheterized.

Posted by: Warrington Faust at May 1, 2010 8:02 AM

MY friends on the right can learn something...or more than one things...from that email.....

1. It is probably BS, written by someone who seems used to writing viral emails.
2. We on the left do not forward around those hundreds of emails like righties do! Most are BS.

As to #2, I know all about it since my mom and dad and their friends who live in SC and elsewhere get hundreds of right wing emails per month.

The funny thing about (some) righties is that they could get 20 emails which were proven false...yet if #21 was even 1/2 true, they will rally behind it!

As I said, we on the "thinking left" don't subscribe to such BS, nor do we let our "friends" forward junk to us. We make the assumption that most real news will show up on google news, etc.

Faust, I know what you mean about Wall Street. It is not inherently bad, it is just that it has been taken over by unpatriotic (multi-national) money, and then uses it's pawns (young men full of hormones) to rip us all off.

When I visited my friend in the exchange, I also thought it would be a neat career...or at least it would be neat for 10 years or so. I still remember the day I visited - that was the day Kmart was rumored to be declaring bankruptcy - my friend bought 48,000 shares when it dipped to 80 cents and told me he was going to unload it before the end of the day. Apparently he never holds speculative stocks overnight! But he's not, in general, a day trader...he just felt that the stock had been pushed too low by fear. I think he did end up doubling his money that day on the big K.

Posted by: Stuart at May 1, 2010 8:35 AM

There are jackasses in every profession.

Posted by: michael at May 1, 2010 8:49 AM

Wotta giant quivering sphincteroid.

A Master of the Universe - until the universe comes tumbling down and then he's among the world's most profligate welfare queens.

A guy like this can't do an honest day's work - it would spoil the manicure.

What talent does it take to lay down bets using other people's money? We need a certain amount of financial lubricant for the wheels of commerce. The financial sector's historical share of GDP is around 15% - we're at double that - lots of air to let out of that bubble still.

Posted by: chuckR at May 1, 2010 1:00 PM

Did 'Gordon Gekko' write that email? Besides "Wall Street", of course, go and rent "Boiler Room" for another perspective on this industry, and the "go-getter" trader/broker/high-powered yuppie personality type.

Posted by: Chris at May 3, 2010 1:31 PM
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