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The World’s Smallest Violin



Call the waaaaaaaaaaaabulance! Bernie makes Wall Street executives feel so oppressed!

Timothy Collins, 49, hears the lamentations about Sanders at the high-priced steakhouse he manages near the stock exchange.

“You couldn’t conjure someone that would scare them more,” said Collins, who wore a gray suit with a pink tie and matching pocket square. “If he’s elected, he’s going to come at them. His supporters are the ones with the proverbial pitchforks.”

The feeling runs to the top of the industry food chain. On CNBC in February, Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein said the Sanders candidacy has “the potential to be a dangerous moment” by demonizing the financial sector.

And those giant bonuses of course must be defended at all costs!

Still, the financial sector is the source of many jobs, not only for stock traders but also security guards and administrative assistants. Even big bonuses, the source of much consternation about the outsized incomes of Wall Street executives, can help support the economy, said Stu Loeser, who handled communications for Michael Bloomberg when he was mayor.

“People take their bonuses and spend them, on watches, on cars, on home renovations, on lots of things,” he said.

For New Yorkers, Loeser said, banks are less the evil corporations of the popular imagination than the source of paychecks for family and friends.

“You don’t have to like the banks to like your brother-in-law, who works for a bank, having a job,” he said. “Those are the people who can get hurt when you start breaking up banks.”

Sanders not only wants to break up some of the banks, but also reinstate financial regulations known as the Glass-Steagall Act, the Depression-era law that kept commercial and investment banking as separate businesses. Its repeal, signed into law by Clinton’s husband in 1999, was seen by some as helping pave the way for the economic reckoning to come less than a decade later.

Who could imagine such a horror as reinstating Glass-Stegall! I mean, you might as well just throw them all into the gulag and toss away the key!

Now, it is true enough that there are lots of people in the financial sector who aren’t making huge money and who do need to live a decent life too. No one is questioning that. Even the point about the bonuses is not completely without merit–for those at the mid-level and lower status within Wall Street, those bonuses actually make a huge difference in quality of life. But there are still tons of problems here. First, it’s the only industry that actually gets paid like this and those bonuses could be reworked into salary to be less egregious and contingent, doing more to protect the lower end people in the financial sector. Second, those bonuses, and the outrage about them, are because the wealthy executives, which is what basically the entirety of the criticism of Wall Street is about, are already grotesquely wealthy and reveling in the New Gilded Age. That’s the target. Third, I love the toss-off quote about how for New Yorkers, Wall Street is your family. Well, I guess that depends on who counts as a New Yorker. Do the people moving out of the Bronx because of gentrification count? The Ecuadoran immigrants in Queens? I mean, some of those people might be cleaning the buildings, but we won’t even bother pretending they count on Wall Street. And on the state level, do the people in Buffalo and Schenectady and Binghamton and Amsterdam and all the other Rust Belt cities count? Ha ha, of course not. This is the kind of myopic view of who counts and who doesn’t count that is at the core of the problem with Wall Street.

This all reminds me of the apocalyptic outrage shown by millionaires in the first Gilded Age over their workers only having to work 12 hours a day instead of 14.

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