(The scene opens in a Goldman Sachs washroom. Mr. B., a top company executive, has entered and rushes into his private Stall #8. A few moments later washroom attendant Selig Cartwright hears pathetic sobbing coming from the stall. He stands outside its door and asks:)
Are you O.K, Mr. B? Is the video player in there on the blink again? Did I forget to put the latest issue of Maxim on the shelf?)
No, Selig. I’m not O.K. I’m (blubber, blubber) a failure. I’m (blubber, blubber) a failure as an investment banker and as a man.
Good Lord, sir. Have those awful people in Washington been saying nasty things about Wall Street again?
Those people, Selig? Don’t be silly. They only do that just before elections. Even then, when Jamie Dimon went before a Senate committee, most of whose members are on his campaign contribution pad, they looked ready to press his pants if sitting too long caused wrinkles. And after President Obama said he opposed the carried interest tax break for hedge fund managers, he went to dinner with his biggest hedge fund manager supporter.
If that’s not what’s got you so miserable, sir, is it the state of the world economy? The endless recession in Japan? The Eurozone recession with unemployment at 12 percent, the anti-austerity results of the Italian election? Or our own weak economy and last week’s sequester fiasco? Is that what’s causing your investment banker pain?
Be serious, Selig. (Blubber, blubber) Why would any of that bother someone on Wall Street or in other financial centers? An endless recession in Japan? That country’s main Nikkei index is up 34 percent since November 2012. Europe’s recession, huge unemployment and voter revolt? That region’s own main stock index is up 23 percent since June of last year. Our own weak economy and that sequester business last week? The Dow went up anyway.
None of this bothers a Wall Street banker?
Of course not, Selig. The banking economy is no longer linked to the little person economy where people like you live out your petty little person existences. We thrive as long as Bernanke’s Fed and the central banks of Japan and the EU keep giving us money, and we repay the favor by keeping it all for ourselves rather than letting people like you have some, which would cause inflation. The only inflation it causes is in certain asset categories like stock prices.
And this special inflation benefits Wall Streeters?.
Yes, Selig, But only marginally. Average bonuses on The Street went up only a piddling 37 percent this year, just a tad above $125,000, on top of our regular salaries. Chump change, as even you can well imagine.
I might be able to imagine it better, sir, if the national minimum wage were raised to $9 an hour.
Am I supposed to care about that sort of thing, Selig? Don’t I have enough on my mind? Aren’t I hurting enough? (Slobber, slobber)
Sorry, Mr. B. So why are you so sad now, sir?
Why am I sad, Selig? (Blubber, blubber) Why am I sad? (Whine, slobber). It’s all in that latest Goldman filing with the S.E.C. that just became public. Haven’t you read it?
No. But maybe it’s in today’s mail at home. What did it say, sir? What was in that company filing that has brought you such pain?
If you read that filing the answer would be obvious. You know we make more than half our money on stock trading. And in 2012, Selig, we lost money in 16 trading days. Sixteen trading days! (Slobber)
Out of how many trading days in all, sir?
With nine holidays off, Selig, 251 trading days in all. (Slobber). But there were 16 days, 16 whole days out of those 251, when in spite of our ability to manipulate gains and losses on trades, we still lost money.
A tragic tale, Mr. B. Though perhaps not as tragic for you as for the people on the other sides of those trades — people who lack Goldman’s special abilities to almost always profit on these supposedly equal opportunity transactions. But did you at least make a lot of money on the trading days when you did make money?
A lot of money? I guess some people would say so. We made more than $100 million on 41 of these days last year. (Slobber, sob, whine)
i don’t understand, Mr B. What does this make you sad? Make you feel like a failure? That’s not chump change, even in Wall Street terms.
Because, Selig, because (whine), because (blubber), because (slobber), because we made more than $100 million a day for 54 days in 2011. (Sob), thirteen days more than we made last year. So I’m a failure, Selig. As an investment banker and as a man.
Mr. B. May I speak honestly, sir?
Of course, Selig. Provided what you say makes me feel better and is not critical in any way.
Given my total financial dependence on your goodwill, sir, that’s a given.
Then proceed to be honest with me, Selig.
Your acceptance of money from the central bank generates a kind of economic growth, which though it all ends up with people like you and doesn’t trickle down to little people like me, it makes politicians look like they know what they’re doing and economists look like they know what they’re talking about.
You’re saying, Selig, that Wall Streeters like me are critical to maintaining the present political and economic order, and the illusions on which it is based? That I’m useful. Useful?
Indeed you are, sir. And the service economy that Wall Streeters like you have done so much to bring into being means there are more low paid people like me employed to service the needs of very wealthy folks like you, which makes you…
A job creator! I’m a job creator, Selig.
You are, sir. Which is why my wife includes you in her prayers nightly.
Thank your good woman, for me, Selig. Now be a good fellow and find that new issue of Maxim and pass it under the door of the stall. Our conversation has given me much to think about and I shall need time to cogitate.
(Michael Silverstein’s new novel, The Bellman’s Revenge, about toilet seat-borne venereal disease and excessive parking ticketing, is available from Amazon. Also check out and support Kay Wood’s zany graphic novel about a methane threat that could destroy the earth, The Big Belch, now featured on Kickstarter.)