In the days before the First Amendment, when a guy wanted to get something off his chest but couldn't risk his own well-being saying anything too controversial, he wrote an anonymous letter and got it published. For Benjamin Franklin and numerous other revolutionaries, the medium was a perfect one. Today, the anonymous letter is back.
A few days ago, a nasty, unsigned letter surfaced on the blogs of Wall Street and quickly went viral. You should read the missive yourself, but essentially, some banker/trader/finance type took time of out his very busy day to warn Main Street of his imminent arrival into the ranks of the working class.
The letter cautioned that because of our unwarranted meddling in his industry, we're going to lose our cushy "$85k a year" jobs to him and all his financial friends. We'll lose our "4 month" vacation privileges, the superfluous bathroom breaks that we take, and our swollen, blue-collar benefit packages. Naturally, Wall Street folk don't require such frivolities, he says, but they'll gladly take them (or assist in their elimination) if they're forced to work our jobs.
In jest or not, if this tirade is at all representative of what bankers think of their fellow countrymen, it's quite clear why there is such a gaping intellectual divide between Wall Street and Main Street.
The individual who composed this letter had the good sense not to sign it. An ignorant, melodramatic diatribe like this one is precisely the type of rant that would get a person fired. I am typically not one to dignify this type this letter with a response of my own. But ... hey, an anonymous letter just showed up on my computer screen. I think I'll share it with you.
Dear Joe Wall Street:
Allow me to be the first person to welcome you to the Proletariat! Let me bring you up to speed.
To start, what planet do you come from? A job with an $85,000 salary and pension, four months of paid time off, and all the other blue-collar perks that you claim exist sounds great, but you're so far off from the life of the average American that I have to question your sobriety.
I know $85,000 doesn't sound like much to you. After all, last year, the average employee at Morgan Stanley (NYSE: MS ) pulled in over $235,000 a year, at JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM ) $380,000, and at Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS ) more than $498,000. But the typical American family -- husband and wife combined -- actually survives on just $50,000, according to the most recent Census data. And that number hasn't changed much since 1999, even while average bonuses rose 10-fold between 1985 and 2006, according to the New York State Comptroller's Office. Lower pay is part of life in America these days -- for everyone except you, that is.
Next, do you really think we won't fight back when you try to take our jobs, as you suggest? Years of off-shoring has forced us to become quite accustomed to competition. Recent surveys suggest that between 10% and 20% of American workers maintain more than one job to pay the bills. Only two-thirds even take all of the paltry 10 work days of vacation allotted to them. Plus, down here, there's no expense account, corporate car, free meals, or slush funds to tap.
Next, you operate under the bizarre assumption that the normal world relies on your seven-figure "bonuses" to function normally. But just how many of our nation's "cushy middle-class jobs" do you think are dedicated toward popping the corks of your champagne bottles, sweeping the floors of your Hamptons estates, and holding the mirror while you gel your hair in the morning?
The reality is that no one here relies on your munificence. Our nation's stagnant per capita income and growing wealth divide should make that obvious. In fact, when this country's collective wealth was at its greatest, bankers had little more responsibility than to hold onto our money until we wanted it. Since then, you've grown like an aggressive cancer feeding off our prosperity. It's high time you realize that whether or not it hurts your feelings, you will no longer have that kind of unchecked autonomy.
Which leads me to my last point: What makes you think you could even survive in the real world? What exactly do you do well? Your own people acknowledge your uselessness. Jeremy Grantham believes that you "add nothing but costs." Paul Volcker believes that the best thing your business has produced in the last 25 years is the ATM machine. Jack Bogle ... well, you don't want to know what Jack Bogle thinks. Even in the best of times, 85% of professional money managers still can't beat a simple market index. Your business has a long and well-documented history of failing to provide value.
Honestly, I'm not sure I even want you doing something as complex as mowing my lawn. With the seemingly perverse attitude with which you view the world, I certainly don't want you within 500 yards of my kids' schools, let alone teaching at them. Your arrogance, your lack of a moral compass, and your incompetence spell out only one thing to me: You're unemployable.
Here's an idea to consider: Rather than infiltrate our lowly jobs, why don't you take that huge brain of yours and that renowned work ethic and become an engineer or a scientist or a doctor and actually create something of value? It would probably be more fun, potentially more lucrative, and you'd finally develop something that you could be proud of. We might even respect you for it.
In closing, I encourage you more than anything else to purchase some class with that swollen bank account of yours. I know you're feeling short in the wallet right now, but sheesh, this is embarrassing. Even your co-workers are pretending they don't know you.
Yours in jest,
Nick Kap--, er, Joe Fool