Selig Cartwright, Goldman Sachs Washroom Attendant, For Fed Chairman
When Selig Cartwright’s name was first put forward as a replacement for Ben Bernanke as Chairman of the Federal Reserve, questions arose in some quarters about his qualifications for the post.
Merely by virtue of working for Goldman Sachs, of course, one is usually assumed qualified to help run our nation’s economy. This has been the way of things in Washington for a very long time. Indeed, these days it’s hard to find any economic policy-making body there not staffed and generally headed as well by an alumni of Goldman or Citi, or someone who will go to work at one of these two outfits after a stint of Wall Street-friendly public service.
Still, Selig Cartwright’s own suggested nomination to head the Fed raised eyebrows because he cleans washrooms. Jokes were made about “mopping up markets,” “flushing the banksters,” and a candidate who really knows “The Street’s inner workings.”
All such cavils, however, miss the real point of a Selig Cartwright chairmanship of the Fed. In fact, miss the larger point of what’s wrong with economic policy in this country generally, and why someone like Selig might actually bring needed insights to the policy-making.
The median income in this country is about $51,000 a year. Half of Americans make more, half make less. And not a single person in an economic policy-making position, NOT ONE, is in the lower half, which is to say not a single person making economic policies feels personally the effects of these policies on the bottom half.
It gets worse.
Only 19 percent of Americans have incomes of more than $100,000 a year. Eighty-one percent have lesser incomes. And not a single person in an economic policy-making position in Washington, NOT ONE, is in that lower 81 percent income range, which is to say not one of them feels personally the effects of their policy-making on four-fifths of their fellow Americans.
It gets even worse.
To be in the top 10 percent of income in this country, you need an income of $140,000 or more. Ninety percent of Americans have lesser incomes. And not a single person in an economic policy-making position in Washington, NOT ONE, is in that lower 90 percent category – NOT ONE in Congress, in the Administration, or among the lobbyists in Washington, experience on a first-hand basis what 90 percent of Americans experience on a daily basis by virtue of the policies they churn out.
Which brings us back to Selig Cartwright as a possible Fed Chairman. No, he can’t sling around those fancy economic terms like the big boys and girls inside the Beltway and on The Street — the way doctors who prescribed bleeding and purging as cure-alls for illnesses once slung around Greek and Latin phrases to justify their nostrums.
But in debates about helping the middle class — you know, those how-do-we-help-the-middle-class debates supposedly held in Washington by our highly compensated economic policy setters — Selig, or someone in the same economic situation as Selig, would be there to say: “Hey, that’s only helping rich people. Let’s try something different this time.”
Economic policy in this country is currently made by hirelings of the rich, or by highly compensated economic technocrats who view reality through statistical lenses divorced from real middle class life. Selig Cartwright is not one of these best and brightest. Rather, like you and me, he’s a victim of these best and brightest.
As Fed Chairman Selig could give the victim’s point of view: This view: Hey, that’s only helping rich people. Let’s try something different this time.”
And wouldn’t that be nice.
Michael Silverstein is a former senior editor with Bloomberg News. His latest book is The Devil’s Dictionary Of Wall Street.