Good, lord, Mr. B. You’re white as a sheet. What’s the matter, sir?
They did it again, Selig. They spray painted those nine horrible words on our front entrance. You must have seen them when you came to work this morning.
No, sir. Don’t you remember? Only top earners can use the front entrance these days. You made that a rule a few years back to give the rest of us something to aspire to.
Right. I remember now. So I guess you didn’t see those spray painted words when you came to work. Our security people wash them off every day. But they keep reappearing again and again like some kind of awful warning.
What are they, sir? These nine words that fill you with such obvious foreboding?
“You have been judged, and Glass-Steagall is wanted.”
Interesting mix of Bible and economics, sir.
Interesting, Selig? Horrifying! Glass-Steagall was one of those socialist laws passed during the New Deal to prevent the kind of market meltdown that triggered the Great Depression? It took us until 1999 to get that damn law off the books. It was cramping innovation. Putting a lid on our risk taking profits. The Volcker Rule they’re trying to push down our throats these days is bad enough. But Glass-Steagall…
I don’t know about that, Mr. B.
Don’t know what, Selig? You do believe in innovation, don’t you?
Of course, sir.
And in risk taking to bring new companies and new industries on line?
Absolutely, sir, Except…
Except what, Selig?
I just don’t understand why you don’t want Glass-Steagall to come back, sir. I mean, what I’ve heard is that it just separates retail and commercial banking that’s insured by the government to protect bank depositors, separates them from risk taking ventures whose aim is to make the biggest possible profits.
That’s right, Selig.
So what’s the problem, Mr. B? If the government brings back Glass-Steagall, it wouldn’t have to regulate Wall Street so heavily because the government, the taxpayers, wouldn’t have to bail out Wall Street companies if you lose a lot of money — you wouldn’t be under the same corporate umbrella as regulated institutions whose depositors aren’t risk takers and have to be saved at all costs. It looks to me like a good deal for everyone. Separation would free the government from an obligation to bail out risk takers. Risk takers wouldn’t have to be regulated as much because they would no longer be a risk to anyone but themselves.
Selig, Selig, Selig. That’s so, so…
Commonsensical, sir? I’m sorry.
No need to apologize, Selig. Common sense is a failing one sees a lot on Main Street. Only a relatively few of us on Wall Street, in Washington, and at some think tanks are blessed with the ability to think counter-intuitively. To transcend common sense. To see beyond the obvious.
What do you see beyond the obvious, Mr. B?
What I see, Selig, is opportunities. I see a future where every American has a shot at being able to feast regularly on caviar and truffles.
Sort of like a chicken in every pot, sir?
Yes, Selig. And a BMW in every garage, too.
A garage that hasn’t been lost to bank foreclosure, sir, along with the adjoining house?
Right again, Selig, You’ve summed up my vision perfectly. Now let’s get back to more immediate matters. Do you have any suggestions about how to keep those nasty nine words from greeting me and other top earners when we come to work?
You could erect a scaffold by the front entrance, sir. To scare warn off taggers.
Good, Selig, but too extreme. At least for the time being. Other ideas?
Well, sir, if the entire front of the building were made available to graffiti artists, another tag more or less would probably get lost in the mix. And passersby might even think that what’s going on inside Goldman Sachs and other Wall Street investment banks was actually a government subsidized conceptual art project.
Selig, your chances of ever coming to work through that front entrance have just taken a steep nosedive. Is my Stall #8 ready for use?
Ready and waiting, sir. And the only writing on its walls are Post-It notes from my wife thanking you for keeping me out of the house all day.
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