|"Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast"
|"The liberal soul shall be made fat, and he that watereth, shall be watered also himself."
-- Proverbs 11:25
Wall Street executives, facing demonstrators camped for a fourth week in New York’s financial district, say they’re anxious and angry for other reasons.
An era of decline and disappointment for bankers may not end for years, according to interviews with more than two dozen executives and investors. Blaming government interference and persecution, they say there isn’t enough global stability, leverage or risk appetite to triumph in the current slump.
“I don’t think it’s a time to make money -- this is a time to rig for survival,” said Charles Stevenson, 64, president of hedge fund Navigator Group Inc. and head of the co-op board at 740 Park Ave. The building, home to Blackstone Group LP Chairman Stephen Schwarzman and CIT Group Inc. Chief Executive Officer John Thain, was among those picketed by protesters yesterday. “The future is not going to be like a past we knew,” he said. “There’s no exit from this morass.”
An anemic global economy, the European sovereign debt crisis, U.S. unemployment stuck above 9 percent and swooning stock markets have sapped the euphoria that swept Wall Street in 2009 as it rebounded to record profits after the credit crisis. The benefits of a $700 billion taxpayer bailout and $1.2 trillion in emergency funding from the Federal Reserve have faded. Next week Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) may report its second quarterly loss per share since going public in 1999, according to the average estimate of 26 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.
“They’re not going to make the kind of money they wanted,” said William Hambrecht, chairman of San Francisco- based WR Hambrecht & Co., who designed the Dutch auction of Google Inc.’s 2004 initial public offering. “I’m not sure people really have come to terms with the fact that what we had was a financial bubble.”
Options Group’s Karp said he met last month over tea at the Gramercy Park Hotel in New York with a trader who made $500,000 last year at one of the six largest U.S. banks.
The trader, a 27-year-old Ivy League graduate, complained that he has worked harder this year and will be paid less. The headhunter told him to stay put and collect his bonus.
“This is very demoralizing to people,” Karp said. “Especially young guys who have gone to college and wanted to come onto the Street, having dreams of becoming millionaires.”
So, if you think being a liberal means that I don’t value hard work or a strong work ethic, you’re wrong. I think everyone appreciates the industry and dedication a person like you displays. I’m sure you’re a great employee, and if you have entrepreneurial ambitions, I’m sure these qualities will serve you there too. I’ll wish you the best of luck, even though a guy like you will probably need luck less than most.
I understand your pride in what you’ve accomplished, but I want to ask you something.
Do you really want the bar set this high? Do you really want to live in a society where just getting by requires a person to hold down two jobs and work 60 to 70 hours a week? Is that your idea of the American Dream?
Do you really want to spend the rest of your life working two jobs and 60 to 70 hours a week? Do you think you can? Because, let me tell you, kid, that’s not going to be as easy when you’re 50 as it was when you were 20.
And what happens if you get sick? You say you don’t have health insurance, but since you’re a veteran I assume you have some government-provided health care through the VA system. I know my father, a Vietnam-era veteran of the Air Force, still gets most of his medical needs met through the VA, but I don’t know what your situation is. But even if you have access to health care, it doesn’t mean disease or injury might not interfere with your ability to put in those 60- to 70-hour work weeks.
Do you plan to get married, have kids? Do you think your wife is going to be happy with you working those long hours year after year without a vacation? Is it going to be fair to her? Is it going to be fair to your kids? Is it going to be fair to you?
Look, you’re a tough kid. And you have a right to be proud of that. But not everybody is as tough as you, or as strong, or as young. Does pride in what you’ve accomplish mean that you have contempt for anybody who can’t keep up with you? Does it mean that the single mother who can’t work on her feet longer than 50 hours a week doesn’t deserve a good life? Does it mean the older man who struggles with modern technology and can’t seem to keep up with the pace set by younger workers should just go throw himself off a cliff?
And, believe it or not, there are people out there even tougher than you. Why don’t we let them set the bar, instead of you? Are you ready to work 80 hours a week? 100 hours? Can you hold down four jobs? Can you do it when you’re 40? When you’re 50? When you’re 60? Can you do it with arthritis? Can you do it with one arm? Can you do it when you’re being treated for prostate cancer?
And is this really your idea of what life should be like in the greatest country on Earth?