The View From My Post Road Window / Nicholas Troilo
It's all swings and roundabouts
The argument is being made that Goldman Sachs, the new darling of the financial community, benefited quite unfairly from the taxpayers' gift to AIG. The premise is this: AIG insured many of Goldman's high risk investments. The taxpayers bailed out AIG. AIG covered Goldman's risk, ergo the taxpayer made Goldman Sachs the Wall Street hero it is today. "Crony Capitalism" it is being tagged.
Now that is nothing new. Capitalism has always worked that way. But in a town like Darien, where a goodly portion of its residents play in the field of finance, the ramifications of the AIG/Goldman/taxpayer relationship can cause a bit of a social strain.
Imagine being a Lehman guy. Here you are still unemployed and gradually depleting your savings. Your neighbor, fellow Weeburn and Tokeneke Club member is a Goldman guy. He's a guy you caught the 6:18 a.m. with every day and the guy you occasionally worked out with at Equinox on Saturdays when you weren't picking the kids up from soccer practice or Little League.
You went to Rangers games together at least twice each season; the Giants game when they had 1 p.m. starts and a couple of Knicks games when he had the Goldman tickets and you the Lehman tickets. Every summer you had a huge bash in your back 40 and every Christmas he had a huge bash the second Saturday before Christmas.
Now that's gone. You're feeling sort of screwed. Not only did the U.S. government -- a government that you always supported -- turn its back on your company but it also took your tax dollars, gave them away to support AIG and then AIG took those same tax dollars and covered your buddy at Goldman. So you were doubly screwed. You're paying your neighbors hefty bonus this year with tax money taken from your unemployment check and at the same time have had to sell off assets, cut back on household spending, and change the way you live.
Those are the sort of situations that cause the social unrest in a town like Darien. It is the sort of social stress that gets very little attention and far less sympathy from the general public. But I empathize with it. Not that I have experienced that level of social dismemberment. I have not.
Simply I have always been interested in how emotional stress operates and how we sometimes just laugh off the problems of the rich. Alright, stresses we learned about during the Astor/Mitchell family feud are one thing. They just made the word "socialite" a derogatory term. I don't have empathy for that sort of emotional stress. Nor can I feel the pain of the Madoff wife or the Madoff sons. Astor/Mitchell/ Madoff and a slew of others are adjudged as criminals. Justice needs its reward.
The stresses men and women experience from the pressure of keeping up with the Darien Jones are more real to me. I had a boss betray me once and although that was some time ago, I can still remember the last lunch we shared together, I sat in disbelief as he denied his specific instructions which I had followed to the tee. It took me many years to get over that and it took me until just recently to actually put it aside. I can still, however, on demand, pull up that emotional, gut wrenching feeling of betrayal. It almost destroyed me. It almost pulled my family apart.
When a working professional is dismantled of the signatures of office it is a tremendous jolt to the ego. And when a system that the working person so heartedly endorsed fails them, the ego is more destroyed. But in the end, the good will win out.
Although some say it is the best that there is, the economic system we operate under is designed so that someone always gets screwed. The trick to living with it successfully is to understand that it is a cycle. A billionaire today; a prisoner tomorrow. A socialite today; your family is a joke tomorrow. Goldman Sachs screws you today; they get screwed tomorrow. Count on it.
As my English friends say, "It's all swings and roundabouts." You deal with the stresses of the down swing. Then on the up swing, you come up swinging. It's all swings and roundabouts.