Overheard At The Wall Street Bar & Grill

Barry Big sat with a vodka gimlet next to Sal Small drinking a Bud Light. A TV played financial news over the bar and the two men watched it for a while without speaking.

“What a crock,” Sal said at last. “Too big to fail? Then what are the rest of us, too small to matter?”

“Basically,” Barry said. “If Fannie and Freddie and Lehman and AIG had just collapsed, the financial system would have been catastrophically damaged.”

“Whose financial system? Here’s mine: go to work, get paid, pay my bills, leave what’s left in the bank. How does a bunch of greedy folks out of work on Wall Street change any of my routines?”

“Are you serious?” Barry asked. He set down his glass and ran his fingers through his hair. “I hardly know where to begin. Your financial system. Leave the money in the bank, eh? Guess what? A money market fund broke the buck, Sal. That means that your money isn’t safe in banks anymore.”

“Mine is, Barry. Checked it. Still there.”

“What if it hadn’t of been?”

“I’m insured. I think it’s called the FDIC, left over after we had another bunch of financial geniuses in suits kinda like yours run the system into the ground. Anyway, there was no run on my bank.”

“Yeah, well you’re going to be hurt because it’s your tax dollars keeping these guys who are too big to fail in business.”

“So the only reason I get damaged is that my tax money is used to save their financial system so they can come back in a few years and destroy it again — on my dime. Here’s a thought: don’t bail ‘em out.”

Barry laughed. “Come on! You can’t be serious. Think of all those unemployed people driving the unemployment rate up.”

“Who? The financial geniuses in suits?”

“Yes!”

“Well, what exactly were they doing at their jobs that was so valuable?”

“Keeping the system afloat!”

“The same system that nearly collapsed because they screwed it all to hell?”

“You just don’t get it, Sal.”

“I guess not. Seems to me that the best way to keep the system that only mattered to them intact is to get rid of the guys and gals who broke it. Call me nuts, but allowing their company to go belly up because of their mistakes would have been a downright efficient way to do that.”

“You want the unemployment rate to skyrocket?”

“As long as I’m not part of it, I don’t see how it matters.”

“That’s selfish.”

“Barry, I don’t mean to be rude, but if those people were so bad at their jobs they nearly killed the system you say keeps the country alive, then they should find new work. So, yeah, I suppose if that’s what would make the unemployment rate skyrocket, then I wouldn’t mind.”

“You’re a hayseed, Sal. I don’t see how you can’t see the freezing up of credit, mortgage availability, loan availability, and such as affecting everybody in the country.”

“Like I said, I pay my bills with money I earn by doing a good job. Nobody’s foreclosing on me. I kept my credit cards at a zero balance, saved enough for years to make a 20% down payment on my house, made sure I could afford the monthly payment, and generally try to sock away 10% a month. I have all the credit I need, I have my mortgage already, I don’t want any loans. All in all, I don’t see the collapsing system doing much to my life.”

Barry rolled his eyes. “The ignorance astounds me. It’s people like you, Sal, who get us into messes like this. If only you knew something about finance.”

“Yeah, if only, Barry. Running the country the way I run my life would just never work, would it? I may not know much about money, but it looks to me that your gang got just one part of the ‘Keep It Simple, Stupid’ philosophy right.”

“There was nothing simple about it.”

Sal finished his beer and clapped Barry on the shoulder. “I know.”

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