Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Cynicism is no fun

I just finished reading a 5000 word article about the inbreeding going on between Washington and Wall Street. It details the ugly relationships that first led to the financial crisis of 2008, and now continues in the Presidential race of 2012. Why, you might ask, would I read such a long and depressing story of political corruption? Primarily, as an investment advisor, it’s my job to gather as much information as possible in order to make sense of it for my clients. But on a deeper level, I suppose I just can’t help myself. I feel inexorably drawn to this sort of story. It validates what I intuitively know to be true, that is that the “system” is broken, and that a small group of people at the top who pay $25,000 for a bottle of wine have rigged the game.

So, you might also ask, does that make you an Occupy Wall Street believer? Hardly. The kids in New York want the politicians to fix things, to level the playing field with some redistributive scheme. What they don’t get is, the people at the top sipping $25,000 cabernet sauvignon ARE politicians. It’s like flipping the keys to your brand new Bentley to your drunk teenage son and saying, “be careful.” The election of 2012 will present America with a choice between probably Mitt Romney, he of Bain Capital and a Wall Street contact list a mile long, against the incumbent President Obama, whose 2008 campaign was financed heavily by Goldman Sachs, and whose entire administration is populated by Wall street veterans from William Daley, Rahm Emanuel, and Michael Froman, to Tim Geithner. We have to decide between the guy who is already bought and paid for, and the guy who is about to be.

So, what does this belief make me? At the moment it has succeeded only in making me a cynic. I realize that cynicism has no logical future as a belief system. I also know that nobody likes a cynic. But right now it’s all I’ve got. I survey the political landscape of our country and see little cause for optimism. The Tea Party’s heart was in the right place, but it got taken over by too many weirdos, the sort of people who think that the John Birch society was on to something, the sort of people who confuse the gift of gab with eloquence, the sort of people who think Glen Beck should run for office. The Occupy people are just plain creepy, with their public defecation, silly sloganeering about being the 99%, and personal hygiene issues, it’s hard to take them seriously. And any political movement which has as it’s preferred solution a further and more radical empowerment of government, has badly judged the historical moment.

I believe that everyone in Washington has been corrupted, everyone in Congress, everyone in the White House and everyone on K Street. At this point we couldn’t possibly do any worse if we sent all of them home , stripped them of their pensions, and replaced them randomly from the phone books of each congressional district. I now quote from William F. Buckley..” I would rather be governed by the first 500 names from the Boston phone book, than by the entire faculty of Harvard University.” How’s this for a campaign slogan…” I have no government experience and I promise to leave Washington forever once my term expires. But I’ll work as hard as I can to figure out what’s wrong with our Country and fix it if I can. If I can’t at least I’ll do no harm.”

He’s got my vote.