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Is Wall Street good for the country?

Federal Hall

Yesterday Wall Street threw a hissy fit when the Fed only cut the federal funds rate by a quarter of a point. The market took a header. People were disappointed that money wasn't quite cheap enough to kick start the deal machine. Deals are how lawyers and investment bankers and security analysts and brokers and the entire gangling financial mega-organism of mercantile capitalism gets paid and keeps things interesting. So everybody was very disappointed. The specter of recession looms. Loans are too hard to get. We need to loan money, whether the recipient can really pay it back or not! No, wait. That's what got us into this situation in the first place. Still, what a bunch of party poopers at the Fed! We wanted the jumbo cut. And we got the weenie.

Some analysts wonder about the wisdom of any interest rate decrease at all. "I think the Fed is prescribing aspirin for a cancer patient," one told the New York Post, which in case you don't know it now owns the Wall Street Journal so it's time to stop making fun of it's credibility, probity and wit. "In particular," the analyst said in regards to even a small rate cut such as this one, "it causes the dollar to decline in value and contributes to rising oil prices, which fuel inflation."

I'm not an economist, but I can speak with similar lack of precision and certitude. I believe that inflation, where every dollar we make is worth less and less, is worse than recession, even though recession is very bad indeed. The failed economies of the world, however, are the ones where money is worthless and people start trading in vodka or meat, no one can afford to drive their cars to the stores they can't afford to shop in.

Now, nobody is pumping for a recession. That would be terrible, too, of course, in different ways. But one can certainly understand why the Fed would move with caution to try to balance these two dangers with some feeling of care and trepidation.

Wall Street, for its part, wants what it wants when it wants it, and what it wanted was a nice greasing, to help more money flow down the pipeline. More in the pipeline means more cash for each individual at every limb of the gigantic money tree. Certainly, that would be good for Wall Street. But would it be good for us? And by us, I mean We?

I know the impact that being a publicly traded stock has on a company. A few years ago, my former corporation was in the grip of a bunch of greedy, liver-spotted executives who were worried about the value of their stock options. It came to their attention that the enterprise would be rewarded by Wall Street, short term, for selling one of its most valuable assets, one that produced excellent cash flow but little in the way of bottom line earnings. They sold the asset and each made a bundle, as did all the chattering the monkeys in the money tree. Within a couple of years, it became clear, however, that the firm was actually dead in the water without that high-margin, cash flow engine. One quarter, the 100 year old firm, a famous name in American business, almost didn't make payroll. And it's gone now.

But Wall Street was happy with the transaction, and many more the Company made just like it. And for a time, certain individuals did get a righteous, leafy payout.

Wall Street has certain demands: growth, buzz, action. Organizations, even great ones, sometimes thrive on stability and stasis, churning out products and profits reliably if not spectacularly. Wall Street drives the decision-making process at every company listed on its exchanges. It rewards those every day who heed its agendas, and punishes the offenders.

Would a huge rate cut be good for you and me? Maybe. Maybe not. One thing's for sure. Down there in the shadow of George Washington, they've already made up their minds.

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The economic writhing of the past 10 years - including the Stock Bubble and Real Estate Bubble - can be wholly attributed to Wall Street and the Federal Reserve's use of its central planning power to cater to them. America's executive management is right in there with Wall Street. Basically, the Fed is being run by Wesley Mouch's and the major public corporations are being run by James Taggart's and Orren Boyle's.

I believe that Wall Street was lobbying for a bigger cut by running stock prises up as far as they did the 2 days before the Fed made it's obvious announcement. Nobody truly believed that the Fed would make a 50 basis point cut knowing the inflationary pressures we see every day. It was wishful thinking on Wall Street's part.

And I would like to remind Wall Street that they were so quick to buy into CDOs and SIVs without doing the proper due diligence that their opinion and credibility means nothing anyways. They are the architect of their own troubles and now want to be bailed out. I don't see any of them giving up their bonuses to assist all the families that their need for profits bankrupted.

I have no pity for Wall Street. They are the source of much of the inflationary pressures we see today with their market speculation, and encouraging good companies to do bad things in the name of P/E Ratios. Their influence on our economy is dispreportionatly inflated, and have managed to ensure that the difference between the rich and the poor remains in their favor. I am not a liberal, but it's embarrassing how our society, claiming to be the most advanced in the world, allows the exploitation of it's citizenry as we do.

You know what I think is bad? Capitalism is bad. Freedom is bad. Heck, America is bad!!!

The idea of capitalism and too much freedom make people greedy. Everyone only care about themselves, and everyone wants lots and lots of money, fast!
People behind Wall Street, Federal Reserve, and the Government are all greedy and selfish. They wouldn't care less about what the rest of us need or want, or the country's economy as a whole, so long as they can make a quick buck! OK, the dollar may tank, but so what?!

All these people care is how to make policies and change (bend) laws so that money will flow more smoothly and directly into their pockets. I never believe for one second that any policies (or rate cuts or whatever) are made to benefit the general public.

Seriosly, the issue on hand is not as simple as whether Wall Street is bad. America (i.e. the people therein) is sick to a point where it is incurable.

Yawwwn. This has become a broken record. The decision to cut rates and their consequences is known before it actually happens, so why the surprise?

Let's see. Wall Street demanded a rate cut last month like a bunch of spoiled brats, despite the fact that most knew it would continue to devalue the dollar and probably increase inflation. Still, Bailout Ben gave them what they wanted. What happened? The little brats took their money and ran the other way because of these same fears (predicted BEFOREHAND) and surging oil prices. The Dow dropped.

Despite the fact that oil prices are down, the same situation persists(i.e. inflation and a devalued dollar) , so what does Bailout Ben do after Wall Street demands another rate cut this month? He gives it to them and they take their money and run for the hills because the "fix" isn't what they were hoping for. As a result, the DOW dropped.

This is absolutely ridiculous. The Fed is simply feeding the junkie, when it should send them and the market to rehab/detox. As it relates to the current state of affairs and the economy, there are benefits to a recession, as they correct out of whack market conditions and get rid of excess. While recovery might be painful, the Fed and government need to get out of the way and let market naturally correct itself.

Stop feeding the "junkie"!

There's a nice article in the Agust 25th issue of the Economist suggesting that hosting a recession here in the Good Olde U S of A might actually be a good thing.

If those on Wall Street are idiots and so overpaid, everyone would be managing money and doing deals, and supply and demand would even out what they make. This proves that those whining don't get it, it's economics 101.

The problem is that most of those complaining about the people on Wall Street don't have the inteligence, discipline, or guts to do the job. To lump Wall Street into one category is ignorant at best. I promise you there are a number of us out there working our butts off for our clients, and doing a good job for them. The firm I work at has created hundreds of millions of dollars of relative outperformance for our clients this year. Those clients are very happy and I will spend my large bonus on what I want and feal very satisfied doing it. How could I say that?, because we did right by our clients and earned the money we made.

I submit a challenge to anyone out there that thinks they have what it takes to work on Wall Street (I don't physically work on Wall Street, but I do work on a team managing a lot of money) go out and get the training (MBA, CFA, CPA, JD,...) and come try it out. What you'll find is one of the most complex puzzles you have ever seen. As the economy becomes increasingly global, each decision becomes more complex with additional inputs and many more unintended consequences. For work, I can't imagine doing something else. However, part of making these decisions is being wrong sometimes (it's that humanity thing that bites you every time) and getting back up and making what you believe to be the right decision the next time. That may be the most diffucult part of the job. To those who take the challenge, good luck. I look forward to working with you in the future. For those of you who want to keep whining, I guess that's ok too, because that means there won't be enough supply of workers to drove down my comp.

>> go out and get the training (MBA, CFA, CPA, JD,…) and come try it out
Hmmm, lets see. There are PhD's outthere working on a bleeding edge science. I havent heard of them getting millions in bonuses. Are they dumber ? Oooo, I see- they actually produce something...

>> What you’ll find is one of the most complex puzzles you have ever seen.
More complex than the quantum theory ? I doubt it. But I know why that puzzle had been created- to gently cheat people off of their money. Thats why.

>> America (i.e. the people therein) is sick to a point where it is incurable.

So sad but so true. And the reason is quite simple. People are getting dumber, but not as dumb not to figure out what is being rewarded. Just look at the "MBA, CFA, CPA, JD" guy...

No, PhD's are not dumber, but you could argue they are motivated by other things. However, many PhD's going into biotechnology are being rewarded with large option grants that can pay off quite well. Both of my parents have their doctorates and what I made in Dec was more than they make in a year, together.

This is not an argument though on who is smarter, but the complaint that people get paid too much. You missed the point. The market determines the value of someone’s job by the value it creates in the market with an adjustment for risk. It also factors in the number of people who can or will do it. My description of the complexity was to encourage those intelligent people to join the ranks not to compare it to quantum theory! I am in no way saying that there are not inequalities in compensation, which can be improved, so let’s be clear about that.

The bigger issue is that people determine their value based on what they make or what they do. Trust me, money will not provide anyone happiness. I am not going to say it doesn't make things easier, but it doesn't make anyone happy. My parents are two of the happiest people I have ever met, a Teacher and a Pastor and I can tell you, they are not getting rich, but they care about serving the people they work for. That is the same attitude that I bring to my work managing others money. I enjoy doing a good job for them and have no problem making a lot of money when I do a good job for them. If you want to get upset about people getting paid when they screw up, I can't argue that. I will hold companies feet to the fire when they put in a comp package like that. I am waiting to hear back from a company about their current filing of their future option plans because I believe they were lacking in controls.

I do agree that America is broke, though I am not convinced yet it is incurable. The problem is that we have forgotten that hard work and research are paid for. Many are now looking for a handout. We aren't educating our students well enough. We don't care about the people around us. The American Dream is so much more than money, it's the freedom to pursue what you love, get rewarded for it, and do it in a place that embraces those of different faith's, nationalities and abilities. The countries had it's problems don't get me wrong, but lets learn from our past, both good and bad, and move forward to provide opportunity for all. This doesn't assure financial success, but it creates the opportunity for it and let's not forget, that isn't what it's all about.

Here's my take on the crisis: