I , for one, would like to thank Bear Stearns. My husband has worked there for 26 years and our memories are mostly fond ones. Of course, we were very much affected by what happened. We are in the middle. Always the ones who suffer the most loss. Mistakes were made. I’m sure there are a variety of complex answers for what happened. However, the community shouldn't’t forget that Bear Stearns was respected on the Street for over 80 years.
What happened in the past days is nothing less than astonishing. I am still feeling the after shock. To me, and to my family, Bear Stearns was more than a symbol and a number running by on the bottom of a television screen. It was real. It was people. Families. A variety of employees. It wasn’t paradise. But a good solid place to be. It had a knack for finding talent in different places. Bear Stearns took pride in promoting from within. The road up wasn’t limited to “Harvard Grads Only.” Instead, it employed a mixture. Employees from Harvard. Employees who worked their way through the company gaining experience and knowledge from each level. Knowing how departments work. Getting that all important“feel” for the market which is the necessary ingredient for true success. And employees from everywhere in between.
Why the story of The Bear had to end the way it did baffles me. We, as a society, follow like lambs to the slaughter when it comes to the media. We believe everything they feed us, and today that means we are being fed 24 hours a day. And that, in part, is what contributed to the end of Bear Stearns. In essence, the media helped create a frenzied atmosphere. Where is their responsibility? Integrity? Where are the ethics? It is absolutely the media’s job to report what is happening, but with objectivity. The news should be reported. NOT SHAPED. Where is our news media headed? It used to be that everyone wanted to be a rock & roll star, but, now, “reality star” is the aim. Newscasters and anchors show cleavage, tease hair, and wear what seems like stage makeup for that oh, so, appealing 1966 Barbie doll effect (and add a pinch of Angelina Jolie).
Even worse, one newscaster on CNN scathingly and sarcastically joked about the plight of Bear Stearns employees. Ridiculing a former employee. Actually mimicking his answer to a financial question and then scoffing at it. Grammar school is the last time I saw something like that. And, even at 12 years old, standing in the school yard, I knew it was wrong. Not so, in our “reality TV” nation. Cruelty, meanness, and vulgarity are what sells. We applaud it. I thought objectivity was one of the responsibilities of the media. But it seems, no. Unfortunately, in this false-reality based culture that we live in, the media has ever more influence over how it contributes to shaping our values. It tells us what to wear. What to eat. It determines guilt or innocence. Condemns, often on hearsay and without facts. It twist words. Dwells on the unimportant. Picks our leaders. Distracts. It’sunbelievable and unbearable.
Thousands of families were ruined in an event that is both sad and historic. Complete retirement savings wiped out. Education funds: wiped out. Life savings: wiped out. I’m tired of listening to news anchors complain about the Fed bank bail out. Where is our memory? Is our whole society suffering from collective Alzheimer’s? 1929? Isn’t it the responsibility of our government to ensure that 1929 doesn’t repeat itself? Or, do we add the crash and the depression to that ever expanding list of facts which our future generations question? You know. They question the reality of man stepping on the moon. They question, if the Holocaust actually happened. What is going on here?
After Bear, it looked like the media was poised to jump on Lehman Brothers. In my humble opinion, the Fed had to act. What if they hadn’t, and Lehman failed? Lehman is larger than Bear Stearns. Which company might have been next? Look at the whole of it. The dollar. The inflation. The loss of manufacturing jobs. The real estate market. Something had to be done. The Fed opened on the weekend to help our nation avoid a major crisis. The move is unprecedented. And most of us don’t have a clue about what is happening. Instead of taking a breath of relief, we condemn the Fed. We don’t stop to remember what happened the last time a frenzy occurred and the nation panicked. However, most Americans can tell you the name of every “Idol” contender for the last three seasons.
A good majority of the people affected by our current situations are middle class. The ones who do most of the tax paying, and keep, for themost part, the economy going. The ones who are the backbone of this country. We try to think of these workers as elite because they work in an office in the heart of Manhattan. They aren’t blue collar. They aren’t working class. (Which is the neck of the woods where I grew up). The numbers, I think, will tell you that most are solid middle class. The largest segment of consumers. The ones who fuel the American economy. There aren’t enough rich to do it, and the poor are not in a position to do it. That’s the way it is. You can’t PC it to death.
Of course, the media alone is not to blame. It is only one part of a complex problem. Some feel that if the Fed stepped in sooner, Bear could have been saved. Others believe that, because Bear over-leveraged itself, the fall was inevitable. However, let’s talk about the notion of compliance and that newfangled hedge fund. Every other area of trading is highly monitored by the compliance department meaning that they are heavily regulated and forced to comply with the rules by reporting trades within 15 minutes. This new fund was ultra complex. I feel, it was poorly tested (if tested at all), and practically non-regulated. Why? Because no one was looking at it. Because no one was monitoring it. Because no one understood it in its entirety. It is a case where technological ideas were implemented before regulation could understand it. In the case of Bear, it was too late to play catch up. That equaled disaster.
Old fashioned greed plays into this tragedy as well. While the fund was making money galore, there was no issue. No problem. The guys running it were, after all, graduates ofimportant schools. They were young. They knew what they were doing. They were allowed to do it. It was not until things began to collapse that any real attention was paid to what was going on, and, it seems, that the lack of regulation was an after thought. So, what is the wake up call? What is the lesson? I’m no economist. I can only look at things from a human perspective. I can ask for common sense to be used. I can ask that we all look back, in order to move forward more confidently. That we all take responsibility for our actions. That we stand together. Our economy is a mess. There is no telling where it might go. It might improve without much damage. It might cause damage the likes of which we’ve never seen. I’m an optimist, but I lean toward the latter. Manufacturing jobs: gone. Health care: a mess. No end to this multi-trillion dollar war in sight. Prison growth: stupendous. Outsourcing gone wild: we hire out non-American corporations to build planes that American men and women will use in war. We are at a precipice. Something must be done, because the future possibilities look scary.
After the features, we took a break. Shared coffee, tea, cookies and ideas. Chatted with the featured poets and perused books for sale (as well as some freebies offered by the generous Edie Eustice).
The open was small, but interesting. It was a combination of several die-hard regulars (Tony, Amanda, Sam, Nick, Crysi & Leona) and some newcomers. Chris Mallari performed a song on his guitar which I thoroughly enjoyed. I love when we mix poetry and music. It is such a natural combination since poetry is music in its own right. I wish we had more musicians to mix up our open a bit more. Javi read a whimsical piece about Puerto Rican angels shaking things up a bit by wearing the newest ethereal trend: baseball caps sans halos and only one wing. I loved it. Thanks Javi. I must admit that we have an excellent open.