Watching the financial markets has been as entertaining as Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey.
I heard a funny story in New York. My best friend and I were sitting in a West Chelsea bar called El Quinto Pino, Spanish for “the Middle of Nowhere,” where we were joined by her husband, a mortgage-backed securities trader who is still making money. I asked Ken (his real name, as he assures me he has nothing to hide) how his week had been. “Interesting,” was his Zen response.
Just days after the Lehman’s failure that really unleashed full hysteria, he went to dinner with some colleagues and a bright young sports star who was keen to be cleverer than most with his $5 million signing bonus.
“I don’t want to spend it,” he said eagerly. “I want to invest it safely.”
“Well, investing is risky. Lehman Brothers has just gone bankrupt,” said a helpful banker.
“The circus has gone bankrupt?!” he answered incredulously.
His confusion is understandable: watching the financial markets has been as entertaining as Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey, where Henry Paulson faces the twin tigers of plummeting markets and rampaging taxpayers. He’s going to need a bigger whip.
Even the reputation of Nancy Pelosi, the queen of speak-softly-and-carry-a-big-stick, has been ravaged by the failure of the bailout. Her right hand curled into a fist at the press conference where she had to apologize for the bill’s failure and vow to get the next one passed. And with that, she strode out.
In the meantime, while the congresspeople put in their all-too-rare overtime trying to figure out what will simultaneously save the economy and their jobs, be certain we’re in for plenty more show. And a friendly drink in the Middle of Nowhere might not be a bad idea.