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No pity for a stumble on Wall Street

The stock market went through a little downsizing last week. Faced with the horrible news that unemployment is down and wages are up just a scintilla, the market lost 161 points on July 15. I have the most unbecoming urge to say, "Nyeh, nyeh, nyeh, nyeh, nyeh."

If people on Wall Street don't think it's good news when unemployment goes down or wages go up, why should the rest of us care about their fortunes and misfortunes? If what's good for Bubba and Bubbette is bad for Chip and Binkie, count me with the Bubba Bobs.

Yeah, sure, 51-million Americans own stock either individually or through their pension plans. Let's run that by again. In the first place, that leaves four-fifths of us _ that's 80 percent for you number-lovers _ who don't have a stake in the fortunes of Wall Street, don't give a rat's behind and think that most of those folks have exactly the same moral status as Vegas hustlers. (My accountant, Ol' Decimal Point Demetri, informs me that I have some pension money in a mutual fund. Oh, well, I've never seen a nickel of it.)

"Investors" _ who used to be called by their proper name, "speculators" _ do not help build bridges, produce widgets or care for children. They've never dry-cleaned a suit, served a meal or made a shovel. They can't even sing, dance or play basketball. It was bad enough when they used to need some smarts to pick the best bets on which company could provide a service or make something useful at a profit. But lately they've been betting on the stock market itself: Will it go up? Will it go down? I've been listening to Louis Rukeyser for years, and I still don't see the difference between that and roulette.

Sure, sure, I shouldn't "wage class warfare" _ as though the rich in this country haven't been doing exactly that for 25 years, without mercy or remorse. "Greed is good," said Mr. Boesky before he got sent to the poeskey.

No. It's. Not.

I should have respect for those who "provide employment." Spare me. Chip and Binky don't provide employment; the companies they invest in need workers. Let's watch our language here. The fewer workers they need, the better for them, and the minute they have a chance to can any of us, they do it _ not to mention cutting our pay, benefits and pensions and making our working hours longer and more dangerous.

The beloved Wright Patman said back in 1936: "We know that many, but not all, of our most powerful and influential citizens are very greedy. That fact has many times been demonstrated. It is perfectly natural that they should seek more power, influence and greater wealth. It is also true that where there is greed, there is no vision, and the Good Book says that where there is no vision, the people perish."

If it weren't for the few labor laws and regulations left on the books _ which Gingrich and Co. are trying to repeal as fast as they can _ we'd be even worse off than we are. Thank God for democracy, as twisted as it is by special-interest campaign contributions. How else could we ever have gotten a raise in the minimum wage if it weren't an election year?

When Bill Clinton arrived in 1992, he wanted to spend money on the infrastructure, provide jobs, boost the economy. He's quoted as saying, "You mean to tell me that the success of the program and my re-election hinges on the Federal Reserve and a bunch of . . . bond traders?" Bond traders _ now there's a collection of parasites. I'll take a welfare mother over a bond trader in terms of productive contribution to society any day. And twice on Sunday.

Increased quarterly profits, highest rate of return; no other values, no other goals. Companies making a profit driven out of business because all the investment money went to other companies with a higher rate of return. No notion of quality, customer service, product loyalty, research and development or long-term future. Long term? These people are so blinded by greed that they wouldn't know their own long-term interest if it hit 'em upside the head. They make this country tacky.

It's not people gettin' rich without effort that chaffs me; it's how dumb they are. Mergers and acquisitions, leveraged buyouts and their effect on the economy and on human beings. Don't get me started.

And you talk about crime. Are you afraid of ruthless, sociopathic thieves? Try the Prudential securities fraud, Milken, Boesky and Drexel Burnham, Barings PLC, Daiwa Bank, BCCI, Charles Keating and the S&Lvis Band.

You say the stock market is down? Break. My. Heart.

Molly Ivins is a columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Creators Syndicate

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