Wednesday, June 25, 2014

A Rebuttal to the Smarter and More Vicious Wall Street Dinosaur

I’m sure that by now many have seen the famous Wall Street denizen’s letter to the “Average Joes” of middle America. If you haven’t seen it (I know many of my more traditionally conservative friends have posted versions of it on Facebook or in blogs), you can read it here:
Yes, this was circulating around back in 2010, and the crash was six years ago now. But I still see this thing cropping up in places. And frankly I remain somewhat surprised by the people I know who still float this thing around. But I’ve never really seen a response to it.
So here's mine.

To the smarter and more vicious wall street fellow (and whoever else thinks like him):
Come on down. Make my day.

Let’s get something straight. The crash of 2008 didn’t happen because the market crapped out, it happened because you’re an unethical idiot. You think you’re smarter than the rest of us, but you’re not. In fact, you’re so stupid, you damn near killed off our entire economy because you didn’t have the slightest god dammed idea what the hell you were doing.
You had no clue whatsoever what sort of risk you were exposing your clients (and everyone else) to when you started combining triple B rated bonds composed almost entirely of sub-prime mortgages into new tranches, then foisting those collateralized debt obligations off onto even more incompetent insurance companies like AIG, who couldn’t even be bothered to wonder what the damned things were composed of before backing credit default swaps on them.

But in addition to stupid, you suffer from a blatant lack of integrity, as you gleefully suckered Standard and Poors into giving a giant pile of high risk triple B bonds a triple A rating, then knowingly duping others to buy or insure the things. You knew what you were doing when you transferred the risk to others; you were taking advantage of their ignorance of what you were doing. And you thought it would be fine because you were too stupid to ever realize that the housing market could collapse and uniformly have a price correction (despite the fact that it had happened historically).
So come on over jackass, and try to eat my lunch. You don’t have any idea what risk is because you’ve never truly been exposed to any. You’ve never mortgaged your house to start or propel a business; you’ve never had to actually produce something, or be entrepreneurial where the only safety net out there is the asphalt that you land on if you fail. You’ve never had to hire or fire people, or have anything like what the rest of us call moral responsibility to our fellows for our own actions. Eat my lunch? You won’t get anywhere near it. But unlike the value traders, such as Michael Burry, who ate your lunch on Wall Street, you won’t even have a lunch to be eaten. No one I know would hire anyone as stupid and unethical as you are.

Joe Main Street

Sunday, February 2, 2014

One of the first courses in my PhD program was an advanced economics math course. In that course I met a fellow named Noah. Noah had just completed his MA in econ at University of Miami, Ohio, and was in the pure Econ PhD program (I was a PoliSci guy). He and I hit it off, and started doing our studying together. We got each other through that course, along with advanced econometrics and advanced game theory. Often he and I would go to a local pub and get a table in the back. While knocking back pints of beer, we would sit with our calculators and derive moment generating functions, or whatever other hard-core math we had to study. We proof-read and commented on each other’s papers, and commiserated over the good and the bad professors we experienced or endured. When we weren’t studying, we were playing poker, or engaging in cooking contests, or organizing wine tastings. Noah was a brilliant mind, and dedicated to his field. He passed away earlier this week, aged only 32 years. You can’t go through what we went through together without forming a bond, and we were very close. When I found out earlier today that he’d passed, I pulled out my text book on mathematical statistics, and stuck in the pages was the final exam study sheet for Econ 308. He and I spent a week together studying for that exam, cooped up in whatever room we could find available. I remember it well. Noah burned brightly, but, unfortunately, unstably. The notice I got says he died of his personal demons. I don’t know what that means exactly, but I can guess. Noah, I hope you are in a better place and have found the peace you were seeking. I will miss you my friend.