Saturday, June 30, 2012

Finger-Pointing Our Way To Luck in America

When I graduated from college I started the on-campus recruiting process. After putting myself though college for 7 years I was flat broke and I needed a job. I thought I'd get a chance to work on Wall Street; some place like Goldman Sachs maybe? They made $10k a MONTH to start. That sounded fair to me. Sadly, I woke from my dream to discover Wall Street didn't recruit from Sac State. They only recruited from the top 1% schools and Sac State was clearly in the 99%.  I struck out on all the other interviews too. On the outside I blamed the 11.8% unemployment rate we suffered at the time, but on the inside "no-no-no" wasn't doing much for my self-confidence. I wanted to finger-point but I needed to make a living.

With one last interview scheduled, that with a company for which I didn't even want to work, I got a job offer. Even if it wasn't my dream job I can't begin to describe how good that felt. I got a job! I may not have been in the 1% but I was in the top 90%. Somebody liked me! And the job? I was a management trainee for a multinational bank getting a starting salary of $11,500.00 ..... a month year ....... $11,500 a year!

Imagine my surprise when recently a good friend with an alcohol enhanced and vocal political viewpoint got on a bit of a rant and told me <with a face that looks like he sucked on a lemon and pointing a bony finger at my nose >..... "You greedy bankers are what is wrong with America."

Now I will take credit for global warming, mid-west storming, and the sun when it doesn't come up in the morning, but this? It's not my fault. I never got my Wall Street dream job but today, with another 10,000 job cuts estimated for this year on Wall Street, I'm reminded sometimes luck is when the things you want, don't happen and things you don't want do happen.

I know: Bankers are hardly anyone's favorites these days ever since the Investment Banks loaded the political firebox with tinder from the sub-prime crisis, the Obama Administration deflected criticism by torching the banks pitting Wall Street against Main Street and fanning the smouldering flame of a class war. But ..... its not my fault! Its Washington's fault .... or maybe Wall Streets fault, but not mine.

I'm certain my friend has been quietly smug this past week when news came out that loans from the 4 largest banks declined 4.9% in the first quarter. They had it coming to them. After that, sources reported that the LIBOR scandal is in full bloom with up to 20 banks across three continents trying to settle out with Regulators. That scandal took a new turn Friday when evidence of mis-selling of interest rate SWAPS to small and medium-sized businesses was discovered by Brittan's FSA. One more black-eye for us bankers. Then in the midst of the debate of the effectiveness of some of the "horse-out-of-the-barn" regulation like the Volker Rule, the icon of Wall Street; Jamie Dimon himself had to answer to a congressional committee on how they could lose $9BN on a financial hedge if they weren't taking risk positions with taxpayer money? Let him twist under the cameras, I'm sure was my friends judgement. Punctuating the failures of the banking business, last week Moody's downgraded 15 of the world's largest banks and saw their market caps fall another 3% as a consequence. Serves them right.

The sad part of all this is we can't see employment gains and complete healing in GDP without a functioning financial system. We can't have a functioning financial system without trust and effective regulation. And we aren't getting anymore trustworthy of our banks when we see these kinds of real headlines that continue dividing America.

Its really not my fault......... but now I'm sounding more like Obama, Bush and Congress. It doesn't matter. I hope at some point my buddy grasps I work on Adams Street not Wall Street, and he realizes I live on Main Street just like everyone else in the country. I get up in the morning and go to work and he would too except he lost his job.

You see my friend's view of my role in the financial world is a microcosm of what's ailing us. Its a bit of a catch-22. So many in our country have suffered and are pointing a finger trying to place blame. But the reality is until we can find a financial system road map that mixes in a moral compass with financial success, we are doomed to continue with disparate positions: the have's and have-not's, the 99% vs. the 1%, leaders in Washington that deflect blame, and a financial system that doesn't put risk capital in the right places.

This recovery is going to take a long time and there is no solution that is going to change that. What is going to make this better is breaking the catch-22 and taking individual responsibility; try and be less jaundiced by an ill-moraled corporate minority, idealistic anarchists on the fringe of the Occupy  Movement, the 'if-it-bleeds-it-leads' press, and the putrefied air emanating from Washington.

Main Street and Wall Street have to work side-by-side to see prosperity in America again. Finger-pointing wont lead to prosperity. While nobody promised any of us a yellow-bricked road to happiness, American's are unique in their ability to rebound and come together. This isn't an ideal situation but it will get better for America and also for my friend if he does his part.

For today I'm reminded sometimes luck is when the things you want don't happen, and things you don't want do happen.

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