Selig Cartwright’s No Inflation Vision — A Goldman Sachs Washroom Attendant’s Adventure

(Entering the Goldman Sachs washroom, Mr. B. finds washroom attendant Selig Cartwright looking different than usual.)

Selig, your eyes are a’glow. There’s a corona around you head. What’s happened to you, man?

I’ve had a vision, sir.

A vision? Oh, damn. One of our traders slipped you a bit of his get-up-to-speed stimulants again.

No, sir. This wasn’t a chemically-induced vision. It was something that came to me in one of the stalls.

Oh, one of those. But the glow in your eyes. The angelic look on your face. The rainbow colors around your head. My own stall-based visions don’t produce that sort of…

No, sir, this wasn’t one of those visions. It came about watching a broken toilet.

A broken toilet, Selig? Explain.

The toilet, sir. It kept flushing and flushing and flushing, but it never overflowed. I watched and suddenly I understood.

What’s to understand? It didn’t overflow, Selig, because the new water was simply drained off before it could overflow. So what produced a vision?

I finally understood, Mr. B., why there isn’t a huge burst of widespread inflation these days, even though the Fed for months has been pumping billions and billions of new money into the economy.

Actually, Selig, the Fed has been doing this for years, not months, and has pumped trillions in new money into the economy, not billions or even hundreds of billions. What’s this have to do with your vision?

I saw, sir, in a burst of clarity, why all this new money hasn’t overflowed into inflation, the way the toilet didn’t overflow even though it kept flushing.

And why is that, Selig?

Because, sir, all this new money has been scooped up by the top one percent. So the only inflation is limited to soaring incomes for Wall Street heavies and big company CEOs, and the things that only they can afford to buy like certain kinds of art, certain kinds of travel, and homes in Manhattan and the Hamptons.

True, Selig. But please don’t think you have to thank us for this. Thank us just because we have to suffer the pangs of inflation while everyone else is spared the pain by getting nothing that would cause them to have more money to spend, which would lead to the kind of inflation the government measures.

So it doesn’t bother you, Mr. B. that all the new economic growth since the 2008 market crash and subsequent recession has only gone to the top one percent of income earners?

Actually, Selig, according to official numbers, only 95 percent of this economic growth has gone to the top one percent. That bothers me. There’s a five percent leakage somewhere that has to be plugged.

I’m confused here, Mr. B. You really think just the very top income earners should get 95 percent of all economic growth?

Of course, Selig. What is there to be confused about? The fact that we get all — or virtually all — means we deserve to get it all. The fact that the Fed and others in Washington continue to pursue policies that make this happen, that just shows they understand this. We’re the best and brightest. We’re entitled.

But Mr. B., you’re always telling me entitlements are bad.

They are bad, Selig. But some entitlements are worse than others. And ours, unlike those others, aren’t bad at all. They’re deserved. And will never again be challenged.

But aren’t you worried, sir, that in coming elections some party will move to change things?

Grow up, Selig. The big election issues for years to come will be Obamacare, or immigration, or some war we get into for some reason or another, or maybe an environmental crisis we can no longer ignore, try as we might. No major candidate, neither major party, will make a big thing about correcting income inequality. Sure, they’ll whine about a suffering middle class, but their solution to middle class pain will be growing the economy, and as your vision illustrated, we’ve ordered things so the only beneficiaries of that growth will be the very top tier. However…

However, sir?

However there will always be jobs for little people who provide personal services for the best and brightest. Care to keep one of those little people jobs for yourself, Selig? Or would you prefer to have another vision instead?

I’ll get down to giving another polish to your personal Stall #8 immediately, sir.

Very prudent. And always remember, Selig, a man never stands so tall as when he bends to serve his financial betters. That’s what the new American opportunity society is all about.

(Lots more Selig Cartwright commentary can be found in Michael Silverstein’s latest book, The Devil’s Dictionary Of Wall Street.)

Selig Cartwright, Goldman Sachs Washroom Attendant, Learns The Truth: Big Banks Now A Branch Of Government:

(When Mr. B. enters the Goldman Sachs washroom for his regular morning visit, he finds washroom attendant Selig Cartwright waiting expectantly…)

What is it, Selig? You look pensive. Is there something you want to tell me?

No, sir. Something I want to ask you. Do you vote, Mr. B?

Of course, I vote, Selig. It’s every American’s duty. We need to elect the best possible representatives who will make the best possible laws.

That’s what I’ve always thought too, sir. Except now…now…

Now what, Selig? Speak up man.

It’s some stories I’ve been reading in the New York Times, sir. Hearing elsewhere, too.

That rag. No wonder you’re upset, Selig. What have they been writing now? I’ll wager it’s something nasty about big banks.

Yes, sir. They and other media are saying, well, hinting strongly anyway, that the people we think we’re electing to make the best possible laws don’t really make the laws that affect big banks. That the banks themselves, their lobbyists, their lawyers…

Stop right there, Selig. I know where this is going. They’re saying that after the people in Washington we elect to make laws that are supposed to regulate Wall Street, they pass these laws along to other government officials to make the regulations that actually allow the laws to work, but these other government officials end up negotiating with us, and we make sure these new laws don’t work against our interests. Is that what your reading and hearing, Selig?

That’s exactly what I’m reading and hearing, sir. Is it all lies?

Lies, Selig? Of course it’s not lies. That’s exactly the way things are done these days. What’s the problem?

I guess the problem, Mr. B, at least for some people, is that companies and industries the government think have done things, or might do things, that require regulation to protect the public, shouldn’t write these regulations themselves.

I could tell you a lot of reasons that argument is silly, Selig. Instead, I’ll just say what Dick Cheney said when it was pointed out that the overwhelming majority of Americans didn’t think we should get into a war in Iraq.

What did he say, sir?

Cheney said just one word, Selig. He just said: “So.”

I don’t understand, sir.

What he was saying, Selig, was that no matter what most Americans thought or wanted, he and others in the Bush Administration had the power to start a war if they wanted to start a war. No one could stop them. They had the power and they could use it as they saw fit. And if most Americans disagreed, thought it was stupid, thought it would lead to disastrous consequences, “So.”

You mean, Mr. B., that Washington passed Dodd-Frank to keep Wall Street from operating the way it wants to operate, and people are disappointed because you’re putting the kibosh on its effective enforcement.

“So.”

And Americans are furious because the big banks made a record $40 billion-plus in the first quarter of this year while average wages and benefits for other Americans, even the ones who still have a job, are stagnant or falling.

“So.”

And if Democrats instead of Republicans are in power, when it comes to really keeping Wall Street in check, both end up going along with what Wall Street wants.

“So.”

Which makes present-day politics, at least when it comes to Wall Street, irrelevant. No matter who seems to be in power, you’re in power when it comes to things that involve your own interests.

“So.”

And that in essence, sir, Wall Street has become a fourth branch of government with powers equal to the other three branches on critical economic matters.

An equal branch of government, Selig? Are you trying to be offensive?

No, sir. I just meant…

Selig, Selig, Selig. They’re on the phone every day begging us for money they think they need to get reelected. They’re sucking up to us daily so they can get fat pay goodies after leaving office. We’re funneling money to their family members directly or indirectly if they play along with what we want. All the people who argue our case on legislation, and negotiate regulations, are their ex-employees — or former colleagues. Yes, Selig, we’re a fourth branch of government. But equal? Let’s just say some branches are more equal than others.

Now I understand present-day American politics, Mr. B. I’m still a little confused about something, though. You told me just a few minutes ago how important it is to vote? But if you control so much and you’re not voted into an office, why is voting still so important?

Because, Selig, when the next big crash comes, the blame is going to fall on people who were supposed to make laws to prevent it. It’s elected people who are going to take that hit. And when the next crop of pols replaces them, because we don’t have to be elected, we’ll be free to buy them, too.

An inspiring explanation, Mr. B.

Yes, Selig. And one that should make you very proud. You’re part of the big bank team, after all.

My cup runneth over, Mr. B.

See that it’s the only thing in this washroom that so runneth. You’d be amazed how many job applications we get these days for jobs like yours, jobs cleaning Wall Street bathrooms.

I appreciate the opportunity to serve, sir.

Continue to do so, Selig. Now get my Stall #8 ready for use. Pronto.

(Michael Silverstein’s new comic novel, MURDER AT BERNSTEIN’S, is available from Amazon.)

Selig Cartwright, Goldman Sachs Washroom Attendant, Explains How To Do Away With Taxes



(The scene is a washroom in the headquarters of Goldman Sachs. Mr. B., a company executive, comes out of his private Stall #8 after an extended visit, carrying a bunch of papers. He encounters Selig, the washroom attendant, who asks…)

Writing a novel, Mr. B.?

If only, Selig. Doing my taxes. Or starting them anyway. They are so, so, so…

Crazy? Irritating? Unfair?

All that, Selig. No time now to complain about them, though. Gotta run. Places to go. People to see. Derivatives to churn out.

You know, Mr. B., maybe we don’t really need taxes. I have an idea that might let us abolish them altogether.

Abolish taxes? Really?

Yes, sir. The other day I was speaking with one of the company’s bond traders…

Always an educational experience, Selig. Continue, please.

Well, sir, he mentioned how the Fed is buying $45 billion a month in long-term Treasury bonds.

That’s right, Selig.

And that comes out to $540 billion a year.

I don’t have my calculator with me, but that sounds right. Carry on.

Then on the radio, Mr. B., I heard that the CBO, the Congressional Budget Office, this fiscal year was projecting the national government’s deficit would be $845 billion. Which means that this year one part of the government, The Fed, would be buying 64 percent of the debt issued by another part of the government, the Treasury, with both using the same collateral — the full faith and credit of the United States.

You see a problem here, Selig?

Of course not, sir. Who could possibly think such a thing? It got me thinking, though. If The Fed is already borrowing 64 percent of new debt issued by The Treasury to fund the deficit, why not borrow it all? Then there wouldn’t be all those arguments in Washington about how deficits are endangering the economy because there would always be a willing buyer for this debt.

Not a bad idea, Selig. But what has this got to do with taxes?

Well, Mr. B., if one part of government spending — the part funded by deficits — was all funded by The Fed’s buying bonds from the Treasury, why not have The Treasury issue bonds to cover the part of government spending now paid for with taxes? Then we could do away with income taxes altogether.

Great Reagan’s ghost! You’re right, Selig! Then all the extra spending possible because Americans would no longer be paying taxes would generate the biggest boom since sub-prime mortgage lending. I’m seeing Dow 50,000 here. But wait. Wouldn’t this notion play havoc with the country’s credit rating?

It probably would, Mr. B. In fact it might give the United States a credit rating a notch or two lower than the Bank of Cyprus. But so what? Low credit ratings may scare off private lenders, or make them demand higher interest on their loans. But when S&P lowered the credit rating of the U.S. from triple-A to AA+, borrowing of this country’s debt actually increased and at lower rates, too, because the main buyer is The Fed, and it doesn’t care about the country’s credit rating, doesn’t demand higher interest rates either, because in essence it is lending to itself.

I’m feeling a little dizzy here, Selig. No more deficit worries. No more income taxes. Surely this would have to catch up with the government somewhere down the road.

Not necessarily, sir. You know my wife reads her Bible regularly.

I do know that, Selig. I hope your good woman is well and she still prays for me.

She is well, sir, and she prays for you nightly. Fervently. As if our economic survival depended on your good will.

A prudent woman as well religious one. Good combination. But why do you mention her now, Selig?

Because when I told her my idea, she referred me to Leviticus in the Bible where it speaks about debt forgiveness every few years, and declaring a Jubilee celebration when one occurs.

So, Selig? So?

So, sir, every few years government leaders and Fed policy makers could go on a retreat together, and come back declaring a Jubilee on all outstanding government debt held by the Federal Reserve. Then the worrisome debt built up by deficits would disappear, income taxes would never have to come around again, and we could start the whole borrow-from-ourselves-to-pay-for-everything cycle all over again. And because this would be sanctioned by God, and no one in Washington would dare admit being a non-believer, there would be no objections.

Selig, I’ll admit I am impressed. Very impressed. I thought all the cleaning chemicals you’ve been inhaling in order to keep this washroom sparkling had probably damaged your brain. Now I see they have actually enhanced its operation. I’m even thinking we hold meetings of the company’s Ethic Committee down here in the future, have them do some washroom inhales, better to ensure we’re compliant with all government regulations.

I’ll work on the seating arrangements, sir.

Do that. Ha ha ha ha. Forgive me for tittering, Selig. But won’t people be surprised when they hear that this country’s new economic policies were devised by a man whose main job is unplugging toilets at Goldman Sachs?

Actually, Mr. B., I don’t think many people would find that surprising in the least.

(Michael Silverstein’s new comic novel, Murder At Bernstein’s, about a financial news billionaire who wants to get elected Mayor of Philadelphia, is now available on Amazon.)

How To Contact Selig Cartwright, Goldman Sachs Washroom Attendant

Every once in awhile Selig Cartwright, Goldman Sachs washroom attendant, puts down his mop, plunger, and toilet brush to answer emails. Doing so is a welcome break from serving the hygiene needs of Wall Street insiders, pandering to their absurd pretensions and delusional sense of self worth, and being reminded daily of their outrageous and undeserved compensation.

Selig enjoys getting email. Sometimes he even answers. You can reach him at: seligcartwright@gmail.com.

P.S. Selig’s dear friend, Kay wood, has a wonderful graphic novel project on Kickstarter — The Big Belch. Selig would love you to help get this project funded. Pledges as small as $5 and even $1 would be much appreciated.

Selig Cartwright, Goldman Sachs Washroom Attendant, Comforts The Afflicted

(The scene opens in a Goldman Sachs washroom. Mr. B., a top company executive, has entered and rushes into his private Stall #8. A few moments later washroom attendant Selig Cartwright hears pathetic sobbing coming from the stall. He stands outside its door and asks:)

Are you O.K, Mr. B? Is the video player in there on the blink again? Did I forget to put the latest issue of Maxim on the shelf?

No, Selig. I’m not O.K. I’m (blubber, blubber) a failure. I’m (blubber, blubber) a failure as an investment banker and as a man.

Good Lord, sir. Have those awful people in Washington been saying nasty things about Wall Street again?

Those people, Selig? Don’t be silly. They only do that just before elections. Even then, when Jamie Dimon went before a Senate committee, most of whose members are on his campaign contribution pad, they looked ready to press his pants if sitting too long caused wrinkles. And after President Obama said he opposed the carried interest tax break for hedge fund managers, he went to dinner with his biggest hedge fund manager supporter.

If that’s not what’s got you so miserable, sir, is it the state of the world economy? The endless recession in Japan? The Eurozone recession with unemployment at 12 percent, the anti-austerity results of the Italian election? Or our own weak economy and last week’s sequester fiasco? Is that what’s causing your investment banker pain?

Be serious, Selig. (Blubber, blubber) Why would any of that bother someone on Wall Street or in other financial centers? An endless recession in Japan? That country’s main Nikkei index is up 34 percent since November 2012. Europe’s recession, huge unemployment and voter revolt? That region’s own main stock index is up 23 percent since June of last year. Our own weak economy and that sequester business last week? The Dow went up anyway.

None of this bothers a Wall Street banker?

Of course not, Selig. The banking economy is no longer linked to the little person economy where people like you live out your petty little person existences. We thrive as long as Bernanke’s Fed and the central banks of Japan and the EU keep giving us money, and we repay the favor by keeping it all for ourselves rather than letting people like you have some, which would cause inflation. The only inflation it causes is in certain asset categories like stock prices.

And this special inflation benefits Wall Streeters?

Yes, Selig, But only marginally. Average bonuses on The Street went up only a piddling 37 percent this year, just a tad above $125,000, on top of our regular salaries. Chump change, as even you can well imagine.

I might be able to imagine it better, sir, if the national minimum wage were raised to $9 an hour.

Am I supposed to care about that sort of thing, Selig? Don’t I have enough on my mind? Aren’t I hurting enough? (Slobber, slobber)

Sorry, Mr. B. So why are you so sad now, sir?

Why am I sad, Selig? (Blubber, blubber) Why am I sad? (Whine, slobber). It’s all in that latest Goldman filing with the S.E.C. that just became public. Haven’t you read it?

No. But maybe it’s in today’s mail at home. What did it say, sir? What was in that company filing that has brought you such pain?

If you read that filing the answer would be obvious. You know we make more than half our money on stock trading. And in 2012, Selig, we lost money in 16 trading days. Sixteen trading days! (Slobber)

Out of how many trading days in all, sir?

With nine holidays off, Selig, 251 trading days in all. (Slobber). But there were 16 days, 16 whole days out of those 251, when in spite of our ability to manipulate gains and losses on trades, we still lost money.

A tragic tale, Mr. B. Though perhaps not as tragic for you as for the people on the other sides of those trades — people who lack Goldman’s special abilities to almost always profit on these supposedly equal opportunity transactions. But did you at least make a lot of money on the trading days when you did make money?

A lot of money? I guess some people would say so. We made more than $100 million on 41 of these days last year. (Slobber, sob, whine)

I don’t understand, Mr. B. What does this make you sad? Make you feel like a failure? That’s not chump change, even in Wall Street terms.

Because, Selig, because (whine), because (blubber), because (slobber), because we made more than $100 million a day for 54 days in 2011. (Sob) Thirteen days more than we made last year. So I’m a failure, Selig. As an investment banker and as a man.

Mr. B. May I speak honestly, sir?

Of course, Selig. Provided what you say makes me feel better and is not critical in any way.

Given my total financial dependence on your goodwill, sir, that’s a given.

Then proceed to be honest with me, Selig.

Your acceptance of money from the central bank generates a kind of economic growth, which though it all ends up with people like you and doesn’t trickle down to little people like me, it makes politicians look like they know what they’re doing and economists look like they know what they’re talking about.

You’re saying, Selig, that Wall Streeters like me are critical to maintaining the present political and economic order, and the illusions on which it is based? That I’m useful. Useful?

Indeed you are, sir. And the service economy that Wall Streeters like you have done so much to bring into being means there are more low paid people like me employed to service the needs of very wealthy folks like you, which makes you…

A job creator! I’m a job creator, Selig.

You are, sir. Which is why my wife includes you in her prayers nightly.

Thank your good woman, for me, Selig. Now be a good fellow and find that new issue of Maxim and pass it under the door of the stall. Our conversation has given me much to think about and I shall need time to cogitate.

(Michael Silverstein’s new novel, The Bellman’s Revenge, about toilet seat-borne venereal disease and excessive parking ticketing, is available from Amazon. Also check out and support Kay Wood’s zany graphic novel about a methane threat that could destroy the earth, The Big Belch, now featured on Kickstarter.)

Selig Cartwright, Goldman Sachs Washroom Attendant, Gets A Lesson In The New American Capitalism

(The scene is the executive washroom of Goldman Sachs. Washroom attendant Selig Cartwright has been pacing nervously, awaiting his employer, Mr. B, who arrives in a huff)

I got your message, Selig, and this better be important. I’ve been trying to get documentation on my new gardener, make sure he’s legal, and the paperwork is fearsome.

It is important, Mr. B. I think we have a mole.

A mole? Damn it, man. You’re supposed to keep this washroom clean.

Not a bug, sir. A mole. Someone who seems very angry about the direction of the economy. He came here and left flyers in every stall.

Great Reagan’s Ghost! A liberal, a progressive, here? In a washroom that I use? How did he get in? When did he get in?

I went out for lunch, sir, and when I got back…

You don’t eat your lunch here in the washroom, Selig? In your place of work? We allow that?

Yes, sir. There’s a state law about employees eating their meals in bathrooms. Another case of over-regulation. Anyway, I came back here and there were these flyers in every stall. One of the company’s male employees must have left them while I was out. Only top brass are supposed to use this washroom, but it’s not guarded.

I’ll have cameras installed this afternoon, Selig. Maybe put a security guard out front. But flyers were left in every stall, you say? Including my own personal Stall #8? Is everything there intact?

Except for one copy of Maxim that seems to have been hurriedly leafed through, and a couple of pages from the latest Homes & Gardens that were torn out, it all seems safe.

Thank heavens for that at least. Very well, then, Selig. I see you’ve confiscated all the flyers. Good. I suppose it’s the usual leftist drivel.

No sir. It actually seems to be…to be…to be…

Speak up man.

A plea to save an American capitalism based on middle class prosperity.

Indeed. How kind of our visitor, Selig, to leave it in a place where I would definitely have the time to sit and read it. Well, I don’t and I won’t. But since you doubtless have had the time to read it, tell me what this flyer writer says.

He says that the share of the Gross Domestic Product that goes to company profits these days is a near record high 12 percent.

Yes. So?

But then he also says the amount of GDP that is going to wages, the main support of the middle class, is only 3 percent, a near record low.

So what’s the problem? One way to get profits up is to keep wages down. That’s part of a normal company game plan.

But, sir, this flyer says that companies now have three trillion dollars in their coffers they can’t invest in new products or in hiring because there’s not enough demand, not enough buying power, in the hands of middle class workers because their wages have been pushed down.

And that’s supposed to be a threat to American capitalism, Selig?

Well isn’t it?

Selig, Selig, Selig. This poor fellow has been rereading his Marx – who would have said that what our flyer author is talking about is an internal contradiction of capitalism. That in capitalism’s natural push to maximize its own profits, it’s destroying the source of those profits, the buying power of middle class wage earners.

That does sound like it could be a problem, Mr. B.

It would be, Selig, had the best and brightest minds on Wall Street not confronted and solved it. Do you think big companies still have to produce more goods and services, have to have middle class consumers who can afford these products, to keep their profits growing and allowing their investors to get richer?

Don’t they, Mr. B? Didn’t I once hear that even Henry Ford started paying his workers a decent wage so that some of this money came back in the form of purchases of his own cars.

He did, Selig. That’s what twentieth century give-everyone-a-decent-taste American capitalism was all about. Wall Street has done a number on that approach, however, and now it’s unnecessary.

How, sir?

By reinventing the financial marketplace. By making it possible for companies to profit even when they don’t have as many customers who can afford what they produce.

I can hardly wait to hear how you managed it, sir.

Allow me to instruct then. First, Selig, we did it by letting corporations with all that money to invest put some of it into computer-based flash trading that now accounts for more than 60 percent of all stock trades. And because Wall Streeters own the fastest computers, corporate investors profit with little risk.

Not like investing company capital in new products and hiring, sir.

Why waste money on that, Selig? Corporations can also invest part of their profits in our derivative trading and make good money. These days you can buy derivatives that insure the credit rating of other derivatives, that insure the market value of other derivatives for all sorts of reasons.

You mean derivatives on derivatives on derivatives, sir, endlessly churning capital in ways that generate profits without actually creating added value or employment?

Yes, Selig. Beautiful isn’t it. Wall Street innovation at work.

It’s certainly a striking vision, Mr. B. Has Wall Street given corporations and their investors other ways to make money without all that old messiness?

Yes, Selig. With hedge funds, like those that bet on crushing the living standards of Europeans who are being forced to pay off bond debt incurred by their own countries’ banks. That’s where the big bucks have been made in the last year.

I think I understand the new who needs-a-middle-class American capitalism now, Mr. B. But can I just run it by you again to make sure I’ve got it right?

Alright. But get a move on it, man. I have people to see, a stall to visit.

O.K. Here goes. Wall Street has restructured a former American capitalism that used to be based on giving a decent share of the national wealth to middle class working people into one that only favors those who invest.

Right, Selig. Except we prefer to call this “reforming” not “restructuring.”

That’s does sound fairer, sir.

And Selig, we can’t take all the credit here. If government policy were still geared to ensuring that wage earners weren’t so disadvantaged compared to investors, if unions hadn’t been so weakened and outsourcing so encouraged, if The Fed were run by men who believed banks exist to support economies rather than vice-versa, all of Wall Street’s best efforts would have fallen short when it came to creating this new kind of capitalism.

Quite a team you have here, sir. Wall Street and government.

You buy it, you own it, Selig. That’s the American way.

And I guess the stock market is a perfect indicator of this change.

Right again, Selig. While the American working middle class continued to struggle in 2012, the S&P 500 went up 13.4 percent last year. It’s been going up throughout the recession without a surge of middle class buying power. While in Europe…

I’ve been reading that people over there have really been getting ground down, sir.

Not all people, Selig. Not investors. The major index of European stocks rose 14.4 percent while virtually the whole continent was wallowing in recession.

An inspiring tale, Mr. B. But won’t all this mean that more and more people in a reformed American capitalism will be out of work?

Don’t be silly, Selig. In fact for you personally, there’s even a wonderful employment opportunity here.

Opportunity, sir?

Yes, Selig. I will be leaving here and walking the trading floor for a few minutes. And when I return, if this place is spotless, all the unwanted flyers have mysteriously disappeared, and my Stall #8 is ready to receive, you have an excellent opportunity to keep your present job.

I’ll get to it right away, sir.

I thought you’d appreciate the upside of the new American capitalism. And Selig…

Sir?

Happy New Year.

(My two most recent novels, Fifteen Feet Beneath Manhattan and The Bellman’s Revenge, are available on Amazon.)

Selig Cartwright, Goldman Sachs Washroom Attendant, Is Back — In Book Form

I’ve been writing a series about the failings and transgressions of Wall Street investment banks built around a fictional character named Selig Cartwright. It is set in a fictional washroom of Goldman Sachs. The series has run on The Moderate Voice website, and been picked up by scores of other popular sites including ones linked to USA Today, The India Times, The Dallas News, et. al.

I’ve now selected the best of these published satires, added a number of unpublished gems, and packaged 24 of them into a new e-book now available on Amazon — The Chronicles of Selig Cartwright, Goldman Sachs Washroom Attendant: Volume I.

Why is this satire of Wall Street investment banks set in a washroom? The rich, it’s often said, are different than the rest of us. Not in all ways, however. As poet Robert Burns famously noted: “A man’s a man for all that.” And there are few places where the similarities are more apparent than a washroom.

This is thus a perfect setting in which the economic two-tiering of American society — Wall Street and Main Street — can readily be played out satirically. Where today’s growing economic inequality can be juxtaposed against traditional American notions of social equality in satirical ways.

Are the underlying issues being batted about here, amid the washbasins and toilet stalls, serious and even deeply troubling ones? Sure. But they won’t get resolved with yet another serious and troubling book. So let’s have some fun instead.

Drop your bowl brush, Selig. You’re on! In an e-book now available on Amazon for $2.99: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B008A6Q3E8

Selig Cartwright, Goldman Sachs Washroom Attendant: Mr. B Sees The Writing On The Wall

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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To learn more about a quirky novel, a very unusual book of verse, and some Goldman Sachs satires from the author of this piece, hit one of these icons:

Fifteen Feet Beneath Manhattan, art by Kay Wood ©2012           A Dyspeptic's Guide To Contemporary American Politics (In Verse) ©2012         The Chronicles Of Selig Cartwright, Goldman Sachs Washroom Attendant: Volume 1 by Michael Silverstien

 

 

Selig Cartwright, Goldman Sachs Washroom Attendant: Mr. B’s Dimon And Clooney Angst

Poor, poor Jaimie Dimon. My heart goes out to the man, Selig.

But Mr. B, he’s a competitor. He heads another Wall Street bank, JPMorgan Chase.

I know Selig. I know. But his company lost $2 billion on some trading deals. Lost money, Selig! It was terribly embarrassing for the poor man.

But don’t Wall Street banks often lose money on their trading?

Almost never, Selig. Goldman made money 25 days last month and only lost money one day — and that was a bad month. Sometimes we go whole quarters without a single losing day. The really strange thing at Jamie’s bank is not just that it actually lost money on trades, but that the losses involved simple stuff, credit default swaps.

Credit default swaps, sir?

You know, Selig, Synthetic derivatives.

Synthetic derivatives?

For heavens sakes, Selig. They’re just a kind of insurance. Like the insurance that little people like yourself buy to insure their cars, their houses, their lives, except this $10 trillion insurance market is free from socialist government regulation. That’s what gives banks the ability to innovate there so we rarely lose money on our trading.

Didn’t such innovation nearly destroy the world economy a few years back, Mr. B?

Yes, Selig. Mistakes were made. We mustn’t focus on the past, however. Got to keep innovating. Like one of Goldman’s own innovations — pair trading.

Pair trading, sir? You mean like putting clients in a deal, then betting the other side?

That was yesterday’s pair trading, Selig. A better pair trading strategy these days involves buying the Australian dollar and shorting the S&P 500 Index. Or vice-versa. Ever do that one at home?

I’ll ask my wife, sir. She handles the family money. But there’s something I don’t understand, Mr. B. Wall Street firms were bailed out by taxpayers a few years ago. Was this bailout so the banks could continue to make most of their money innovating with things like synthetic derivatives? With buying or shorting currencies and indexes?

Can you think of a better use for taxpayer money, Selig? I certainly can’t. But that’s not what I wanted to discuss with you this morning. I have a question. Am I as handsome as George Clooney?

Beg pardon, sir?

George Clooney. The actor. Speak up, man. And be honest. Do I or don’t I look as handsome as George Clooney?

Well, Mr. B., if the lighting were a certain way, or the bulb blew, or the person doing the viewing had cataracts, or was standing far enough away, or..

I think I’m catching your drift, Selig. Darn.

What’s the problem, Mr. B? Why do you care whether or not you’re as handsome as George Clooney? He only entertains people. Wall Street is making the world a better place with synthetic derivatives, and with currency and index plays.

The reason, Selig, is that Wall Street has decided to back Romney this time around, while Hollywood is backing Obama. And I thought if George Clooney and I were both viewed as equally handsome and sexy, Goldman Sachs being the face of Wall Street to much of the public, it might help Mitt at the polls.

Interesting notion, Mr B. Very innovative. Why is Wall Street backing Romney, though? Didn’t Obama dump the economic advisors he ran with in 2008 after he got elected, the ones who wanted to tame Wall Street, and replace them with Timmy Geithner, who used to call here all the time for advice? Timmy who kept The Street from getting really regulated after the 2008 crash. Timmy who beat back limiting Street compensation. Timmy who put the kibosh on a transaction tax that would have made The Street’s computer-generated mega-trading less profitable.

Yes, Selig. Obama, guided by Timmy, has been more than kind. But Mitt will be even kinder. He’s also the sort of fellow you could meet at a beach club in The Hamptons and not have to listen to whining about food stamp and Medicaid shortfalls.

Romney does look really comfortable in a blazer and tan slacks, sir. Bet he’d also be a good tipper.

He’d tip like a sailor, Selig. And people mock trickle down. Will it never end?

It will if Romney and a Republican congress get elected in November, sir. Guaranteed. Ready for another Stall #8 visit?

Yes. Just take out the GQs first, Selig. They might have some pictures of you-know-who inside.

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To learn more about a quirky novel, a very unusual book of verse, and some Goldman Sachs satires from the author of this piece, hit one of these icons:

Fifteen Feet Beneath Manhattan, art by Kay Wood ©2012           A Dyspeptic's Guide To Contemporary American Politics (In Verse) ©2012         The Chronicles Of Selig Cartwright, Goldman Sachs Washroom Attendant: Volume 1 by Michael Silverstien

 

Selig Cartwright, Goldman Sachs Washroom Attendant: Composing The Music Of The Markets

Mr. B. You’re looking radiant. Today’s visit to Stall #8 seems to have touched you in a very positive way.

It has, Selig, It has. What was that wonderful music I was listening to with my headphones in there? It was so…so…

Strangely recognizable, sir? Uplifting? A perfect something to go with your reading of this month’s cover story in Bloomberg Markets Magazine?

Yes, Selig. And so much more appropriate than my usual listening choice in there.

Better than Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries,” sir? Your usual favorite? That’s high praise indeed, Mr. B.

Don’t get me wrong. Selig. Wagner is certainly bowl-worthy. But this new music…What was it?

“Dow 2007,” sir.”

“Beg pardon.”

I have a friend, sir. who composes the stock market. He takes charted stock movements, converts them to musical notation, adds a few jazz riffs, and creates a kind of music.

That’s amazing, Selig. I don’t suppose this technique also has predictive qualities. I mean, technical analysts in the market look at charts of stock movements searching for certain patterns they say sometimes predict which way the market — and certain stocks prices — are headed. Has your friend ever tried something like this with his market music?

He has, sir.

And have his predictions ever panned out?

Almost never, Mr. B. Though once in awhile…

Stop right there, Selig. I like that ‘once in awhile.’ If we were to package this kind of advice with the right legal caveats, claim its a kind of technical analysis that employs audial rather than visual hints, I see possibilities.

You might even bet the other side of the trade, Mr. B., to ensure Goldman wins either way.

Interesting notion, Selig. I’ll run it by our Ethics Committee. In passing, do you think we could afford to hire this friend of yours?

Afford to hire him, sir? He’s a musician. He makes his rent playing senior centers and bas mitzvahs. You can get him for a year for what you paid for dessert at that trader’s twenty-third birthday party the other night.

Hmmm. Much to cogitate about here, Selig. Do you have another market music tune from your friend that I can listen to?

I do, sir. Dow Fourth Quarter 2008. It has a funereal sound, but if you just want a bit of variety…

“That kind of variety I can do without, Selig. Hook me up one more time with Dow 2007. And have your friend destroy this other number. Believe me. No one wants to see, much less hear, 2008 played again.

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To learn more about a quirky novel, a very unusual book of verse, and some Goldman Sachs satires from the author of this piece, hit one of these icons:

Fifteen Feet Beneath Manhattan, art by Kay Wood ©2012           A Dyspeptic's Guide To Contemporary American Politics (In Verse) ©2012         The Chronicles Of Selig Cartwright, Goldman Sachs Washroom Attendant: Volume 1 by Michael Silverstien