Screw Wall Street

Screw Wall Street

Sorry, but I have no sympathy for the sudden poverty of investment bankers who’ve gamed and likely destroyed our financial system in the relentless pursuit of wealth.


I must admit, watching the Dow tank 500 points on Monday felt something like fun. All those dazed and confused investment bankers walking out of the Lehman Brothers offices with plants in their hands, scared about their future, not knowing how they’re going to make rent on their $2,700 studio apartments–it was pretty freakin’ sweet. Better than watching the Yankees lose, Tom Brady blow out a knee or some rich trust-funder fall down and crack his head open on Houston Street.

Investment bankers are some people’s ideal New Yorkers. They work twelve to fourteen hours a day. Their lives are completely centered around work. They rarely engage in political dissent, don’t raise hell and question very little, unless it affects their money. They earn on average $280,000 a year, so they can buy the townhouses and pay the punishing rents that force virtually everyone else out. They support expensive restaurants, bars, clothing stores, pet grooming and poop pick-up services that have turned once-unique New York neighborhoods into a soulless, upscale pukefest. These are the people who are happy to live in the Matrix and go along with the plan.

Sure I’m generalizing on some level, but who cares? Screw ’em! The world is falling apart, people are starving, our economic system is contributing to the destruction of the earth, there is injustice on every streetcorner–and these people decided to dedicate their entire existence to making as much money as they possibly could.

There is no reason to become an i-banker except to get rich. To land a job at a Wall Street investment firm means nine times out of ten that you’ve gone to an Ivy League school. These are people with options–born on third base, yet believing that they don’t owe anything to anybody–and from what I can see, don’t much care about the consequences of their relentless pursuit of wealth. If steering investments to war profiteers like the Carlyle Group, Halliburton or some oil company that’s killing people and destroying the ozone layer is where the money is at–no problem. Let’s hit the Hamptons on Saturday, it was a good week.

This is an unfair world. Most of the time, it feels as if there is no God. No old dude with a beard making sure that if two bad things happen to you, then two good things will happen down the line. The amount of suffering in the world is not evenly distributed. Poor people get crushed. Rich people get breaks. Most of us are not destined to be the ones seated inside the fancy restaurant; we’re the ones outside on the sidewalk, looking at what’s on their plates.

So as disastrous as the market crash may be for all of us in the long run, take a minute and enjoy one part of it. Revel in their misery. Toast their unemployment and celebrate their pain! Or at the very least, don’t be brainwashed into thinking you have to care about the newfound poverty of the super-rich. This is one of the rare opportunities to see a little karma in action–and know that the people who always get away with it don’t always get away with it.

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Katrina vanden Heuvel
Editorial Director and Publisher, The Nation

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