Archive for March, 2011

“I’m Middle Class. Please Save Me!”

March 27, 2011

   Judging from what many financial pundits are saying nowadays, it seems that the administration and Congress are preparing a strict “no nonsense” new set of regulations, including criminal laws, that will be able to prevent a recurrence of the ’08 financial meltdown.  One reason for this, they say, is because the “middle class” has been “devastated” by the loss of value in their homes, the rising unemployment and the shrinking of their pensions and retirement accounts.

   I don’t believe it.  At least, not yet.

   I think it is way too early to predict just how much they actually want that kind of change.  I think that pundits have a fundamental misconception of what the “middle class” is.

   They are not the “middle” but the “struggling” class.  They have been promised and have bought (but rarely fully own) “The “American Dream”.  What goes into it may vary, but in general it means owning your own home and sending your kids to college, and probably more, because they will have more than what you have.  It means retiring when you have not lost interest in sex and adventure, and can even risk some of that nest egg on the kind of “crazy” schemes that you wouldn’t have dared when you actually had a job.

   This was all fantasy, of course, but it was as solid as the firm mattress they slept on. 

   True, some of the Americans in that “struggling” class aren’t sleeping as well as they used to.  But I’m not sure they would sleep any better if they were promised that their homes, now “underwater” financially, will never again have a market price as high as just before the bubble burst.  I also don’t think they want the financial markets to be so “honest” that they will never again have the chance to score a big payoff, like when some of them sold their Enron shares before it crashed.

   Maybe some “tough” laws will restrain the banks and investment firms.  At least for a while.  But, don’t forget, the majority of the “struggling” class did not lose their jobs, and they weren’t ready to sell their homes yet anyway.  So they haven’t felt the kind of “devastation” that the pundits claim will support true reform of the financial industry.

   In short, they are ready to start struggling for that dream again.  In fact, one reason why they would feel safe again is if some of those “big fish” of finance actually went to jail.  That would mean that the “reformed” markets are safe again for honest strugglers like themselves to get rich.  So that the promised dream would come true, just as they always knew it would.  But if all the reformers can promise them for the future is that they will never again be offered those “risky” investments they lost so much money on, then real reform is doomed.  Those damned regulators are always standing in the way.

Vigil for the Japanese People

March 21, 2011

  I attended a prayer service for Japan last Friday evening. It was held in the United Nations Chapel, and was organized by Reverend KenjitsuNakagaki.  Prayers were led by reverends from three sects of Buddhism, and for the Christian and Shinto religions.  The texts of the prayers were given in both Japanese and English.  There was a music offering consisting of three piano pieces, and solemn, yet hopeful speeches by civic leaders, including a U.N. official.  Afterwards, there was a procession to Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, where the attendees lit candles and prayed silently.  There was a moving speech by Emiko Nagano, the organizer.

  This was a bracing and sobering event.  It was a clear night, and refreshingly warm for the last days of this winter.  The moon was full, and startlingly huge.  I did not feel as if these quiet prayers could make any difference in the face of the sufferings of so many, so far away.

EVillage Return

March 16, 2011

We went to a (kind of) play, or theatre event last Saturday…Called “Swan!”…at P(erformance) S(pace) 122 , a former public school now used for theatre events, mostly fringe (avant garde?) acts from people trying out new stuff cheap…And it was FUN!!…But only if you’ve seen “Black Swan” because it won’t make any sense otherwise…it was four guys and one girl playing all the parts…sitting on chairs, holding props and miming the sexy parts hilariously…and the cast must have known more than half the audience of two hundred…all of whom (except us 2 uptowners) were wearing the entire inventory of thrift shop attire on the LES…and who laughed both before and after every joke (explain that!)…so we went to momofuku ssam afterwards, just to stand there a hungry half hour like all the other idiots until we left to get dull Thai salmon and noodles in almost empty 3rd ave parlor. 

Kill me if I ever write like this again.


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