Posts tagged Wall Street
In 1987, novelist Tom Wolfe evoked the passion of New York and Wall Street culture in the famous book Bonfire of the Vanities. The traders of the 1980s were described as “masters of the universe.” But what’s it like working there today? For this week’s Newsweek, Wolfe revisits that subject by focusing on Wall Street as it is today.
An excerpt:



Up until 2006 a spirit of manly daring had pervaded Wall Street’s investment bankers. Trading stocks and bonds was the next thing to armed combat. The warriors, i.e., traders and salesmen, told of how fighting in combat—confronting not an armed enemy but a fan-shaped array of computer screens—created a euphoria more exhilarating than any other conceivable state of mind. It was the highest of all highs—and thanks not only to the earth-orbiting ecstasy of the battle. There was also the not inconspicuous fact that these Boomtime Boys—many of them in their 20s, still young enough to blush—were knocking back a million dollars or more a year in bonuses, year after year …



Victory as recorded on those screens made them feel like Masters of the Universe. The phrase came from a 1987 novel, The Bonfire of the Vanities, whose main character, Sherman McCoy, is a 38-year-old trading-floor salesman for an investment bank averaging a million dollars a year in bonuses and living on the top-nob part of Park Avenue. One day his trading-floor telephone rings, and he picks it up and takes a buy order for so many zero-coupon bonds his commission will be $50,000. Took 20 seconds, maybe 30, and—just like that—he’s $50,000 richer! The words suddenly flash into the Broca’s area of his brain: “I’m a Master of the Universe!” Jesus Christ!—came straight from his 6-year-old daughter’s toy set of plastic figurines, the “Masters of the Universe,” who had names like Ahor, Blutong, and Thonk and look like Norse gods who pump iron and drink creatine and human-growth-hormone smoothies.



In real life, young men on trading floors all over Wall Street read that book and got a kick out of that name, Masters of the Universe. They said it aloud only in a jocular way—they weren’t fools, after all—and never mentioned the wave of exaltation that swept through their very souls: I’m a Master of the Universe …


The market crash in November 1987 didn’t diminish that sublime bliss for longer than a few gulps. Likewise the “dotcom” crash of 2000—02. Even after 2002 the Masters of the Universe cast such a spell that an estimated 40 percent of the top 10 percent of the graduates of Harvard, Yale, and Princeton headed for jobs on Wall Street.



In 2004 a well-known trader for Deutsche Bank, John Coates, a Canadian, absolutely baffled his mates, his fellow warriors of the battle screens, by quitting Wall Street and heading off to England to re-up at his alma mater, Cambridge University, as a first-year graduate student in neuroscience. Neuroscience?! In a Second World country, England?!



The truth was, Coates never got Wall Street off of his mind for a moment. He was intrigued by the fact that a bunch of impulsive, juiced-up, howling, heedless young men had their hands on billions of dollars every day. He was turning to neuroscience in hopes of finding out what on earth could possibly account for… the Masters of the Universe.




Read it online today—or check out the iPad app for a few extra videos we made with the novelist.

Up until 2006 a spirit of manly daring had pervaded Wall Street’s investment bankers. Trading stocks and bonds was the next thing to armed combat. The warriors, i.e., traders and salesmen, told of how fighting in combat—confronting not an armed enemy but a fan-shaped array of computer screens—created a euphoria more exhilarating than any other conceivable state of mind. It was the highest of all highs—and thanks not only to the earth-orbiting ecstasy of the battle. There was also the not inconspicuous fact that these Boomtime Boys—many of them in their 20s, still young enough to blush—were knocking back a million dollars or more a year in bonuses, year after year …

Victory as recorded on those screens made them feel like Masters of the Universe. The phrase came from a 1987 novel, The Bonfire of the Vanities, whose main character, Sherman McCoy, is a 38-year-old trading-floor salesman for an investment bank averaging a million dollars a year in bonuses and living on the top-nob part of Park Avenue. One day his trading-floor telephone rings, and he picks it up and takes a buy order for so many zero-coupon bonds his commission will be $50,000. Took 20 seconds, maybe 30, and—just like that—he’s $50,000 richer! The words suddenly flash into the Broca’s area of his brain: “I’m a Master of the Universe!” Jesus Christ!—came straight from his 6-year-old daughter’s toy set of plastic figurines, the “Masters of the Universe,” who had names like Ahor, Blutong, and Thonk and look like Norse gods who pump iron and drink creatine and human-growth-hormone smoothies.

In real life, young men on trading floors all over Wall Street read that book and got a kick out of that name, Masters of the Universe. They said it aloud only in a jocular way—they weren’t fools, after all—and never mentioned the wave of exaltation that swept through their very souls: I’m a Master of the Universe

The market crash in November 1987 didn’t diminish that sublime bliss for longer than a few gulps. Likewise the “dotcom” crash of 2000—02. Even after 2002 the Masters of the Universe cast such a spell that an estimated 40 percent of the top 10 percent of the graduates of Harvard, Yale, and Princeton headed for jobs on Wall Street.

In 2004 a well-known trader for Deutsche Bank, John Coates, a Canadian, absolutely baffled his mates, his fellow warriors of the battle screens, by quitting Wall Street and heading off to England to re-up at his alma mater, Cambridge University, as a first-year graduate student in neuroscience. Neuroscience?! In a Second World country, England?!

The truth was, Coates never got Wall Street off of his mind for a moment. He was intrigued by the fact that a bunch of impulsive, juiced-up, howling, heedless young men had their hands on billions of dollars every day. He was turning to neuroscience in hopes of finding out what on earth could possibly account for… the Masters of the Universe.

What’s amazing about this photograph (by David Shankbone, Mr. Coolest Last Name Ever) is the ‘Charging Bull’ sculpture was initially installed without the consent of the authorities. It’s guerilla art!
The rest of the Occupy Wall St. photos from ‘In Focus’ are equally fascinating, go check ‘em out. (And hey! There’s a rumor Radiohead might be performing for the protesters at 4pm. Woah.)

What’s amazing about this photograph (by David Shankbone, Mr. Coolest Last Name Ever) is the ‘Charging Bull’ sculpture was initially installed without the consent of the authorities. It’s guerilla art!

The rest of the Occupy Wall St. photos from ‘In Focus’ are equally fascinating, go check ‘em out. (And hey! There’s a rumor Radiohead might be performing for the protesters at 4pm. Woah.)

In Which We Revise and Extend Our Remarks

Re that last post, perhaps a more thoughtful response is in order. Our biggest problem with this is not that it’s obnoxious but that it’s so perfectly wrong, and in no way representative of reality. Point by point:

Just like gambling, its not a problem until you lose. I’ve never heard of anyone going to Gamblers Anonymous because they won too much in Vegas. Now the market crapped out, & even though it has come back somewhat, the government and the average Joes are still looking for a scapegoat.

The gambling metaphor is one of the main problems here. A healthy market is not a casino. Which, by the way, is a good thing for Wall Street, because if it was a casino, every last one of them would be flat broke and kicked out of the building by now; after you’ve lost everything, casino owners don’t generally come to the table with generous offers to make you whole. 

Go ahead and continue to take us down, but you’re only going to hurt yourselves. What’s going to happen when we can’t find jobs on the Street anymore? Guess what: We’re going to take yours. We get up at 5am & work till 10pm or later. We’re used to not getting up to pee when we have a position. We don’t take an hour or more for a lunch break. We don’t demand a union. We don’tretire at 50 with a pension. We eat what we kill, and when the only thing left to eat is on your dinner plates, we’ll eat that.

There are so many things wrong with this it’s hard to begin, but let’s start with the obvious one: If Bob Rubin wants to take over the night grill at Dennys, we say knock yourself out. This mythologizing of the Wall Street work ethic (We’re sharks! We never sleep! David Brooks says we’re a superior life form that deserves everything we get) is a little silly, and even if completely true (we suspect there’s a lot stretching the definition of ‘work’ here), well, so what? Which would you rather do, sit at a desk for 14 hours for a seven-figure yearly compensation, or work two fulltime jobs cleaning offices for $9.50 an hour? Talk to us about your work ethic when that’s your reward. “We’re used to not getting up to pee when we have a position”—Great; you’ll do well at Wal-Mart. ”We don’t take an hour or more for lunch break”—Congratulations. Welcome to corporate America.

For years teachers and other unionized labor have had us fooled. We were too busy working to notice. Do you really think that we are incapable of teaching 3rd graders and doing landscaping? 

Um, yes, if we had to bet, we do think you’re incapable of teaching 3rd graders; teaching, at least teaching well, isn’t something you just walk in off the street and pick up.

So now that we’re going to be making $85k a year without upside, Joe Mainstreet is going to have his revenge, right? Wrong! Guess what: we’re going to stop buying the new 80k car, we aren’t going to leave the 35 percent tip at our business dinners anymore. No more free rides on our backs. We’re going to landscape our own back yards, wash our cars with a garden hose in our driveways. Our money was your money. You spent it. When our money dries up, so does yours.

Hmm. We’re no economists (OK, Samuelson is), but we’re pretty sure a healthy economy isn’t one that relies mostly on the discretionary spending of a few super rich people to support everyone else; that sounds kind of …. feudal. Also, we’d love to hear from any servers out there, because we suspect that 35 percent tip is a fiction.


Ahem. All of which is to say that this is not a serious statement. Nor is it a reflection of what actually goes on on Wall Street; there are plenty of really good, smart people there who create value and make our country better. What this sounds like is a some sort of Ayn Rand fantasy.

An email that was going around Wall Street this morning

unburyingthelead:

newleft:

We are Wall Street. It’s our job to make money. Whether it’s a commodity, stock, bond, or some hypothetical piece of fake paper, it doesn’t matter. We would trade baseball cards if it were profitable. I didn’t hear America complaining when the market was roaring to 14,000 and everyone’s 401k doubled every 3 years. Just like gambling, its not a problem until you lose. I’ve never heard of anyone going to Gamblers Anonymous because they won too much in Vegas.

Well now the market crapped out, & even though it has come back somewhat, the government and the average Joes are still looking for a scapegoat. God knows there has to be one for everything. Well, here we are.

Go ahead and continue to take us down, but you’re only going to hurt yourselves. What’s going to happen when we can’t find jobs on the Street anymore? Guess what: We’re going to take yours. We get up at 5am & work till 10pm or later. We’re used to not getting up to pee when we have a position. We don’t take an hour or more for a lunch break. We don’t demand a union. We don’tretire at 50 with a pension. We eat what we kill, and when the only thing left to eat is on your dinner plates, we’ll eat that.

For years teachers and other unionized labor have had us fooled. We were too busy working to notice. Do you really think that we are incapable of teaching 3rd graders and doing landscaping? We’re going to take your cushy jobs with tenure and 4 months off a year and whine just like you that we are so-o-o-o underpaid for building the youth of America. Say goodbye to your overtime and double time and a half. I’ll be hitting grounders to the high school baseball team for $5k extra a summer, thank you very much.

So now that we’re going to be making $85k a year without upside, Joe Mainstreet is going to have his revenge, right? Wrong! Guess what: we’re going to stop buying the new 80k car, we aren’t going to leave the 35 percent tip at our business dinners anymore. No more free rides on our backs. We’re going to landscape our own back yards, wash our cars with a garden hose in our driveways. Our money was your money. You spent it. When our money dries up, so does yours.

The difference is, you lived off of it, we rejoiced in it. The Obama administration and the Democratic National Committee might get their way and knock us off the top of the pyramid, but it’s really going to hurt like hell for them when our fat a**es land directly on the middle class of America and knock them to the bottom.

We aren’t dinosaurs. We are smarter and more vicious than that, and we are going to survive. The question is, now that Obama & his administration are making Joe Mainstreet our food supply…will he? and will they?

From the National Review Online

There is, perhaps, no better summary of the capitalist mentality than this one. There is no possibility of genuine socialism here or even social democracy; the only alternative to capitalism as the bankers like it is the Democrats’ ineffectual redistributive policy. There is no possibility of voluntary cooperation; you are either a hard worker or a parasite. For a polemic, it’s brilliant. For a policy prescription, it’s a nightmare.

O, monstrous.

Huh. Funny, we had no idea Limbaugh could write this well…