Letter From a Banker
Bankers are misunderstood and often slandered. Yes, we are greedy, but so are you. Cupidity is a natural urge, wouldn’t you say? It’s a kind of (con) genital juice that courses through everyone’s lower and higher plumbing. Whether it’s money, fame or nookies, most of us don’t just want our share, but always a bit more, often a lot more, than the next guy. Not to oversimplify, but here’s a bumper sticker for you, GREED IS LUST, but before you slap that onto your car, PayPal me five bucks, OK? It’s copyrighted. I just copyrighted it. Use it without my permission and I’ll sue your motherfucking ass.
So that’s established. So there’s nothing wrong with the fact that greed hardens me, but what makes me different from you is my method. I’m more clever than you, a whole lot more clever. (I didn’t want to say “smart” outright, since that would offend your sissy sensibility.) Part of it is education, yes. I did learn a few tricks in college, but it has to be the right one. While you sculpted sandwiches for Subway and/or went into suicidal debt, thanks to me, to attend Butt Fuck U, I chain smoked Havanas at the Skull & Bones before segueing into Haaaaaavard. Bet you don’t even know where that is, you dumbfuck. In any case, you went to school to get indoctrinated. I went to network.
At Harvard I joined a gang, so to speak, an Anglo-American gang, and our method is so clever yet so simple, and since you’re so stupid, I’ll only use the teeny tiniest words and speak as slowly as possible. If I had a set of crayons handy, I’d draw stick figures to help you to understand this. OK, so our entire method, trumpet blast then drum roll please, comes down to this: We make money out of nothing, then we lend it to you, you and you, for profit.
Is that it, you ask, and I’m sorry to be so anticlimactic, but if it works, why complicate it? This laughably simple method has enriched us and impoverished you, you and you for nearly a century, since 1913, to be exact.
I can see that you’re not quite satisfied. You want more. OK, OK, I’ll give you a cartoon slide show: Let’s say you are a developer, and you want to build a bunch of houses. Since you can’t just pull cash out of your ass, like me, you must come to my business for financing. The customers, likewise, can’t just fart Federal Reserve notes either, so they too must trudge to mi casa to secure loans. Thanks to the wizardry of fractional reserve banking and other neat tricks, I’m lending to y’all money I don’t even have, but though these interests are making me so damn fat—figuratively speaking, of course, not like you—I will go a step further. I will bundle a gazillion of these crappy mortgages together, chop them up real fine, then sell stinking shares to investors all over the world. Like Taco Bell, I’ll stuff my products with all sorts of impurities, but unlike them, I won’t even list the disodium inosinate, disodium guanylate or potassium chloride, etc., in my investment scrapple. Selling dog shit, I’ll even charge a commission.
But how can I get away with this? Where are the regulators? What are you, a Huffington Post intern? A college professor with an Obama button surgically attached to your forehead? Here, look into my laundry basket. The regulators are dozing among the lint and skid marks. Don’t disturb them.
So everything is going great, with houses being sold left and right, on mountain tops and in the middle of the desert even, until it seems that every Wal-Mart greeter and busboy is a proud owner of a McMansion, but of course they won’t be able to keep up payments, especially when interest rates jack up.
Though their mortgages have been turned into confetti and scattered all over the universe, I’ll still repossess their houses. Some I’ll sell, but since there are so few buyers these days, especially as I’ve tightened lending standards—who say I’m not upright?—many of these homes are left to rot. Some I’ll even tear down.
Looking out the window, I now see a mob down below. Night after night they sleep in the cold or rain without even a tent over them. They have a long list of grievances but no demands, not that they’ll get any concessions anyway. Though they’ve pointed accusatory fingers in my direction, I have nothing to worry about since they’ve refused to call me by name. Perhaps they don’t even know. Do you?
Should this carnival get rowdy, these hippies, punks, eco loonies, union goons and other assorted misfits will only get themselves hurt and, at most, a few of my foot soldiers annoyed. I’ve been talking to you real friendly, fuckheads, but in spite of my bonhomie and $10,000 Fioravanti suit, I can be nastier than Quentin Tarrantino’s worst nightmare. I’ve brought entire countries to their knees, so I won’t hesitate to squash a few more tattooed and nose ringed cockroaches. Cornell West or Michael Moore groupies ain’t ish. (I picked up that lingo from my “rebellious” son.) Now, would you like a drink? I’ll buy the first round.
Linh Dinh is the author of two books of stories, five of poems, and a just released novel, Love Like Hate. He’s tracking our deteriorating socialscape through his frequently updated photo blog, State of the Union.