The alleged Wall Street e-mail that went viral

Are bankers and traders really mad as hell, and plotting to take elementary school teachers' jobs?


Andrew Leonard
May 4, 2010 1:38AM (UTC)

Mr. Merryday, my son's seventh grade science teacher at Longfellow Middle School, better watch his back. There's an unemployed CDO trader gunning for his job, and he won't take no for an answer! Wall Street is sick and tired of getting painted as the bad guy who destroyed Main Street -- but if it's class warfare you want, it's class warfare you're gonna get.

If we are to take at face value a viral e-mail reportedly circulating among the investment banker crowd last Friday, Wall Street is angry and just not going to take it anymore. The full text of the e-mail is reprinted below, but here's one paragraph to give you a taste: (italics mine.)

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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't retire 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.

To "have a position," in Wall Street lingo, is to be "long" or "short" on a tradeable item, be it light sweet crude, pork belly futures, shares in Goldman Sachs, or a synthetic CDO constructed out of credit default swaps referencing subprime mortgage-backed securities. While I am duly impressed by this trader's vaunted ability to keep a lock on his bladder, the time-scale reference still appears to be relatively short -- we're talking about "positions" meant to be held for a matter of hours, if that long. Once, the measure of a man's strength was how far he could throw his javelin -- today, on Wall Street, it's how long you can hold your piss before unloading some toxic waste on the next sucker. I'm not convinced this ability will provide any special advantage in tackling a classroom full of unruly middle-schoolers, but maybe it impresses the babes.

New York Magazine attributed the provenance of the e-mail to a blogger who calls himself "Six Gun" at the blog "Fill 'em and Bill 'em." Six Gun claims to have posted his rant, under the title "Beware of Dinosaurs," at the password-protected DopeyCowboy.com in September 2009, and is apparently quite unhappy that his words are suddenly the rage of Wall Street, without appropriate attribution.

I don't know if Six Gun is the real author of the "Beware of the Dinosaurs" screed, but from how he describes himself in a post published on Friday, "Excommunicated From the United States of America," he certainly sounds like someone who could have written the rant "on a shitin bar napkin while watching football. "

I have a daily 4 hour commute to make a living. An ex-wife hell bent on making me pay forever for being a terrible husband. 2 dogs on their way out that I need to care for. 25 dollars in tolls. Ridiculous property taxes in the state of N.J. Missing my ex girlfriend who went back to her husband. Paying more taxes than your average union, state or city worker. No pension and at this point... no 401k. Cranky customers that want to make me miserable because they are in the same boat. Trading for pennies. Etc Etc Etc, I think you get the point. Well ... maybe you do, but the government doesn't. You and I have the same problems as any other American during a recession. The fact that we work on Wall Street does not make us immune. I worked at Goldman for 7 years and have been in the industry since 93. I never cheated a customer, made up a print, or deceived a grandmother out of her social security money. 99% of us are hard working, moral Americans trying to make due the best we can. We earned our home and place on "Main Street" Mr President and you are something that we just don't have to "deal" with. You will hear our votes and voices in 2010 and 2012, unless of course you kick us out before then. Branding an entire group of people liars and thieves is pretty funny coming from Washington.

It almost sounds too good to be true -- an ex-Goldman employee! -- but it also rings with a kind of authenticity. Six Gun may not be for real, but his sentiments surely are. I have no doubt that thousands of employees of Wall Street firms feel rather put upon. They graduated from top colleges, fought their way up the career ladder in a ruthlessly competitive industry, made big money and were kings of the world. Then came the financial crisis and the U.S.'s worst recession in 70 years, and suddenly the lions of Wall Street are the constant recipients of abuse from grandstanding politicians, political cartoonists, stand-up comedians, opinion writers and bloggers and enraged partisans of both the left and right. To be considered the best and the brightest and then get blamed for breaking the global economy? That's tough. A whole class of people put their faith in a market fundamentalist ideology that declared the pursuit of profit and the indulgence of greed to be the a right and proper way to organize a society. And now, well, it kinda seems like they were wrong. When your whole way of life is under unremitting attack, and you throw in a bad commute, big alimony payments, and a likely tax hike when Bush's cuts expire, I can see how that would put you in a bad mood.

There is much to mock in Mr. Wall Street man's rant -- not least the idea that your average third-grade public school teacher might make anywhere close to $85,000. But there is one substantive claim that is worth taking seriously: the idea that if you take Wall Street income-earners out of the economic equation, the whole economy suffers.

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.

There can be little doubt that specific Manhattan service economy sectors were hit hard by the financial crisis. But that hardly compares to the damage done to the larger economy by the metastasizing growth of Wall Street over the last 30 years. Before the financial crisis, the financial sector sucked up 30-40 percent of all corporate profits in the U.S. Wall Street salaries rose in parallel, which meant that the smartest, most driven students from the best schools turned up their noses at science and engineering and medicine (and, of course, teaching) and headed to the Street.

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And for what? To trade derivative financial instruments with each other? To make speculative bets with borrowed money? To hold off on a bathroom break while screwing a German bank on lousy subprime mortgage crap? There's a perfectly reasonable case to be made that the financial sector provides a valuable function in a capitalist economy through the allocation of capital, provision of credit, and creation of liquidity. It's a little harder to make an argument for the games that were being played with mortgage-backed securities. But the real problem is that finance went from middleman to end-in-and-of-itself. And in so doing Wall Street sucked capital, profits and talent out of the rest of the economy.

Mr. Six Gun seem to think the rest of us "average Joes" should quail in fear at the prospect of a mass migration of Manhattan-based assholes to the tenement next door, where they will ruthlessly out-compete us by honing their fourth-grade math lesson plans at five a.m. while holding down a second job at the all-night car wash. But rather than tell him how he might find living on the budget of a public school teacher harder than it looks, I say, come on down! Bring it on! And I don't mean that to be taken in an adversarial sense. We need you out here on Main Street. We need you working at jobs that make a tangible difference in people's lives, whether that means manufacturing a physical product or shaping a young mind. It would be pretty amazing if all the ingenuity a Goldman banker put into the construction, marketing and sales of a CDO could be channeled into the business plan for a renewable energy start-up or an after-school program.

And granted, this is just a theory, but I bet that if you took a bunch of Goldman, JP Morgan, and Citigroup bankers and stuck them in a coal mine run by Massey Energy's Don Blankenship, it wouldn't be more than a week before they started agitating for union representation. Because you can call them jerks, and you can blame them for a large share of responsibility for the financial crisis, and heck, you may not want them anywhere near your kid's social studies curriculum. But by and large, they're not stupid.

"Beware of the Dinosaurs"

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't retire 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?


Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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