Dear We Are Wall Street,
An admission up front: Like the way I feel toward a petulant child, I wanted to ignore you. Obviously, given BusinessInsider’s reprint of your noxious screed from April, 2010, in the past 24 hours, I’ve seen and read more opinions on your poorly-thought out (and even more poorly-argued) rant than I ever would have cared to. So, I guess what I’m saying is, I wanted to ignore you, but now feel I can’t.
So…look, your arrogance doesn’t bug me. I’m in finance, I work mostly with dudes, I get how we all are – we’re a little too smart, we’ve been told since birth we’re special, and, yeah, we make a lot cash doing what we do. We’re all big-headed, and that’s fine.
No, my issue is with your “reasoning,” outlined in your pounding-the-desk, haven’t-gotten-laid-in-too-long rant. Indeed, my frustration with you lies less in the sins of your character (no matter how toxic) and more in your incredibly off-putting and ignorant approach to the issue at hand. In short, your “analysis” mimics that of a sulky, unlikable child: “You don’t like me, so I’m running away! What will you do when I’m gone?” Sigh. Quite a bit, actually.
So on that verbal note, let’s take a look at this “letter,” and pick it apart piece-by-piece, paragraph-by-paragraph.
“We are Wall Street. It’s our job to make money.”: Yes, it is. But by that logic, when you lost money (on CMBS’ – God, you guys are so gullible) you should have lost your institutions, corporations, and, most importantly, your jobs. Instead, Daddy Government bailed you out, and now you’re claiming superiority? Yikes. If I were you, I’d be sucking Obama’s balls for keeping me in my office, rather than shooting off about how much better I am than everyone else. In short, I’d be embarrassed if I needed the government to keep me in my private sector job.
“Well now the market crapped out, & even though it has come back somewhat…”:Whoa, whoa, whoa. Slow down there, Mr. Banker. This assumption is just wrong. Here’s why:
As far back as April, 2010, the writing was on the economic wall: the global (and, obviously, American) economy has semi-permanently contracted. Even more alarmingly is the international story: Greece is set to default (government and policy can’t save EVERYONE, Wall Street), Ireland’s about to throw a political hissy fit, and the E.U. hasn’t even started dealing with Spain, Italy, and Portugal. Furthermore, as great as the China story is, more than 40% of its economic growth has been, at least for the past few years, internally driven; and, after all, what good is building roads (on loans in which the lender simply repossesses the road, should obligations not be met) on which only a few members of your populace can drive?
In short, Europe’s screwed, America’s f#cked, and China’s right behind us all (take that as you will). Given all this, you think the market’s bouncing back? I’m just a simple girl from Wisconsin, but, Chr1st almighty, knowing all this, I wouldn’t arrogantly proclaim “All’s well, unwashed peasants!” in a letter attempting to highlight my intellectual superiority. Instead, I’d be panicking and trading on these impending and inevitable clusterf#cks. But that’s just me. Moving on…
“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.”: Alright, dude, settle down. First, go date rape your starving girlfriend, drink yourself into a black out, and relax. It’ll all be ok.
Yes, we in finance have amazing work ethics. 18-20 hour days? Yep (I write this at the office on a Saturday afternoon, after all). But…that doesn’t mean we’re good at EVERYTHING. We are good at THIS ONE THING. To claim “We’re going to take your jobs!” is just erroneous. What makes us good at finance, trading, investing, etc. is what makes us so terribly-suited for other work. The ability to “eat what we kill” makes us great cash producers, but absolute failures in most other fields. Indeed, our temperaments would take down almost any other organisation we entered and a boss would be insane to even let us through the doors. So stop assuming because you can stare at a screen and trade on a blip, you understand how the world works. For God’s sakes – how can you not see what’s going on in Europe? I mean!!!….wait, alright. That’s for another time and place.
“For years teachers and other unionized labour 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.”: Alright, full confession. This was my favourite paragraph. I can just imagine you hunched over your laptop, your receding hairline retreating by the minute, while you self-righteously pound out your simple, angry thoughts and sentences. Thank you for that image.
Ok, so let’s take this line-by-line. Firstly, really, teachers have it so great? Same with union members? I don’t know. This may just be me, but I grew up poor and in Middle America and am now on “your” side. Knowing what I know about these decent, hardworking people is that, well, their lives aren’t easy. And it’s not always ignorance that drives them to these professions, but instead circumstances, professional availability, and lack of choices (that girlfriend of yours a real intellectual catch? Nope. But I bet her daddy (and I don’t mean you here) is). In short, where and into what circumstances we’re born plays a bigger role than you think it does.
Even more importantly – and I cannot OVERSTATE THIS ENOUGH – YOU WOULD NOT GET THE JOBS YOU THINK YOU WOULD. The world operates BECAUSE people like you – like us, really – DON’T work in our schools and in our government and on “Main Street.” Listen, you lunatic, you can’t snap your fingers and suddenly join – let alone dominate – another part of society or America. You’d be better off joining the mafia than becoming a blue-collar line employee.
Finally, you argue your superior intellect and work ethic. Now, I don’t know your age, but wouldn’t it make more sense if, given your apocalyptic view of the world and your profession, you start maximizing your intelligence and dedication and start the application process to go back to graduate school, after which you’d enter another white collar field? Med School might be a stretch, but there’s always Policy school (get a sweet job in a Conservative think-tank!) or, Law School (an even potentially better fit). I dunno, if your approach to getting laid off is “I’M GOING TO BECOME A PLUMBER,” I don’t think Main Street has much to worry about. You do, though.
“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 per cent 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.”: Sigh. Let’s go over this again. Please understand: the world is not Manhattan and Manhattan is not the world. Your limited consumption will not an economic meltdown make.
Ok, first, I love that you think union members and teachers make a sweet $85K/year. I mean, last time I checked, the average is about $45K (for teachers at least). So, given this fact, here’s a tip: be sure to understand the marketplace before you go charging into that local high school, demanding $85K/year and an “easy job.”
Secondly, oh, good heavens! Whatever will we do without your consumption of expensive foreign cars and your lack of $1,200 business dinners in Manhattan’s finest eateries? And you’d take away from us your trips to Brazil, France, and Mexico, too? God, stop stabbing Main Street in the collective heart! We beg your forgiveness. You’re right. Downtrodden companies in America’s heartland had no idea you’d stop buying their…um…well, we’re terrified of something. I’m not sure what, exactly, given the above-listed threats, but rest assured, we’ll rethink our position now that we know you’ll no longer be plugging your cash into foreign companies and countries to live that awesome life you brag so openly about.
Chr1st. Sometimes – no, often – I’m embarrassed I work in finance. I love my work, but my God, get your intellectual acts together before you give us ALL a bad name.
“The Obama administration and the Democratic National Committee might get their way and knock us off the top of the pyramid, but it’s really going to hurt like hell for them when our fat a**es land directly on the middle class of America and knock them to the bottom”: Um…TARP, anyone? Honestly, dude. This is embarrassing. Only can a (I can only presume) rich and upper class individual scream “I’m a victim!” I’m not even going to pick this part intellectually, it’s so silly.
“We aren’t dinosaurs. We are smarter and more vicious than that, and we are going to survive.”: Are you? I don’t know. If you’re SO threatened by the signs around you that you, your job, and your way of life are near extinction, why are you writing silly, ill-informed letters instead of taking that teacher’s certification course or joining that union to protect yourself? If you’re so scared, certain, and convinced that you’re an endangered breed, I’d think you’d have made that professional switch already and be applying for that union card as I type. No? Oh, boy. Then I guess you ARE in trouble.
So…there we go “We Are Wall Street.” This was a lot of fun. I hope things start looking up for you and you get that sweet teaching job you want so desperately.
Oh, and one more thing. If you’re pointing toward your sure “win,” should class warfare erupt, I’d place my bet on Main Street. For I grew up with these people, and they don’t need the government to bail them out of their f#ck-ups, they understand what they’re best at, and, if given the same opportunities you are, would probably do something different than become a teacher or union member, should their jobs become obsolete.
Best of luck to you.
Margaret Bogenrief is a partner with ACM Partners, a boutique crisis management and distressed investing firm serving companies and municipalities in financial distress. She can be reached at [email protected]