LET'S RETRAIN WALL STREET INVESTMENT BANKERS

The classic Depression song, "Brother, can you spare a dime?," would now be more like "Brother, can you spare a sawbuck?" Whether 10 cents or 10 dollars, though, hard-hit folks all across our land are singing the old song again.

The classic Depression song, “Brother, can you spare a dime?,” would now be more like “Brother, can you spare a sawbuck?” Whether 10 cents or 10 dollars, though, hard-hit folks all across our land are singing the old song again.

That’s why it’s so heartening to see a political leader like Mayor Mike Bloomberg of New York City step up to assist laid off workers in his area. With everyone from retail salespeople to truck drivers losing jobs, the need is obvious.

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Unfortunately, Bloomberg’s concern doesn’t quite stretch all the way to include such pedestrian workers. No, no, his relief plan targets a more specialized group of the unemployed: Wall Street investment bankers.

Barely able to choke back tears of compassion, Bloomberg spoke movingly about the need to revive the financial services industry, declaring with tight-jawed determination that this requires “holding onto the talented people who will make it happen.” In particular, the mayor worries about those laid off Wall Streeters who concocted debt derivatives on things like subprime mortgages.

Uh-huh, those would be the same “talented people” who made millions peddling paper junk that ultimately broke their banks and our economy. Why anyone would want to hold onto them is beyond me, but Bloomberg is putting up $15 million in city funds and asking for $30 million in federal money for his banker relief program.

And what a program it is! One part of it will try luring big banks from Asia to set up operations in New York to replace U.S. banks. Then, the laid-off geniuses could get jobs working their magic inside foreign-owned banks. But another part of the plan seems especially appropriate. It would retrain bankers for other business opportunities.

Splendid! Since they’re good at messes, I’d suggest street cleaning and sewer work for them.

“City to Spend $45 Million to Retrain and Keep Laid-Off Wall Streeters,” www.nytimes.com, February 19, 2009.

“Battling the bastards is about as much fun as you can have with your clothes on.”

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