Three Bankers: Brian

December 14th, 2011 at 1:07 pm | 26 Comments |

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Read Part 1 in the ‘Three Bankers’ miniseries here. Read Part 2 here.

Banker 3: Brian

Brian grew up in a rural state with the cards stacked against him—middle-class, scrappy and short, he overachieved his way into being the top finance student in my class. He taught me how a collateralized debt obligation worked in September of 2008, when no one else had a flipping clue as to why Lehman Brothers was collapsing, using stick figures and diagrams.

(“So wait, the credit rating agencies did what to bad debt?” I shrieked, outraged.)

(“Yep,” he sighed, and handed me a fresh gin and tonic.)

Miraculously he got a job at a major bank. I didn’t hear much from him after we both graduated, though we occasionally chatted on Facebook about politics and funny Hulu videos he couldn’t watch while at work.

Then one day his job became redundant and he decided that he wanted to run for Congress.

“Well, it’s more like a Plan B in case things don’t work out,” he cautioned, after I picked my jaw off the floor. “But I’ve really been thinking about whether I want to continue in finance. I mean, I know the people I need to know, and I’m intelligent enough to run. But what’s the likelihood that I could actually make a difference in Congress?”

“As a singular person? Not very much.” I shrugged over the Internet. “Depends on which party you’d choose. Either of them would be really happy to have you, but in one case you’d have to sign your soul over to Grover Norquist, and in the other case you’d have to constantly freak out when a random Democratic caucus undermines you by accident.”

“I’m aware of that. It’s just…” The cursor blinked for a few slow minutes before he responded. “Am I supposed to be making piles of money for the rest of my life? Or can I do something that makes a real difference? It’s a tough decision to make.”

That night I turned over the proposition of seeing a former Wall Street banker attempt a run for office. A Wall Street banker. My own age. He could either pull off a John Kerry-esque speech in which he tosses his Hermes ties over the fence of the White House in front of an Occupy rally, or he could dig deeper into the trench of wealth and run as a moderate Republican. Secretly, I hoped he would do the former—if only as an experiment to see which way the driftless protesting youth would blow.

The next day I got a message saying that he received a lucrative offer to work at a London bank. “So much for my dreams of being a Congressman,” he joked.

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26 Comments so far ↓

  • otternell

    I can’t wait to read the final summation of why I should care about these three individuals. So far, meh.

  • _will_

    “So wait, the credit rating agencies did what to bad debt?” I shrieked, outraged”

    if only there had been something in place to make sure this wouldn’t happen… oh wait.

  • Ray_Harwick

    Yep. HisGirlFriday wins the internets. It was The Three Bears.

  • MyDailyThoughts

    I believe he is trying to humanize these people and show that they are not the EVIL bankers that everyone makes them out to be. But alas, this bio does not provide the depth needed to make that judgement and Brian ended up going for the big money any way. So Frum, what was the moral of this story again?

    • CautiousProgressive

      If there is no particular commonality between the bankers, and they are not evil – in other words they are simply human…

      … then perhaps the moral is that the banking crisis is not due to the evil of individuals, but due to some trait of the financial system.

      (or perhaps the author isn’t even discussing world financial crises at all)

  • Frumplestiltskin

    “Depends on which party you’d choose.” This is staggering in its cluelessness. The guy is thinking of running for Congress yet does not possess an ideological framework? Yes, I understand that centrists could have a hard time but the Republican party no longer has a moderate wing, it is right and righter. And the notion that you can only make a difference by running for Congress is just stupid. Sounds more like ego than wanting to do good.
    And plenty of Wall Street Bankers ran for office, Corzine who ran Goldman ran for both the Senate and Governor as a Democrat. Of course it helped him he had millions to use and his being a Democrat helped him appeal to both liberals (simply by being a Dem) and moderates because of his supposed business acumen (which we now know was bs)

  • heap

    Phil is a diesel mechanic, and a darn good one. He works 3 days a week at the garage down by the pile of burning tires. His left leg is 2 inches longer than his right leg and he smells suspiciously like a Hot Pocket.

    After an evening of drinking Thunderbird and Aqua Velva, Phil and I found ourselves in a Taco Bell drive thru.

    “Hey Phil, can I borrow a chalupa from you?” I asked, expecting either 2 dollars or another joke about the size of my mother’s thighs…I couldn’t really lose.

    “That depends, man – will you be asking for sauce?” he responded without even contemplating any other aspect of the transaction.

    “Sauce?”, I asked…”Sauce? Really? The sauce is free, man”

    Phil was unconcerned with the cost, however, he had a deeper philosophical issue at hand.
    “If you’re getting hot sauce, that’s alright, but if you’re one of these mamby pamby nattering naybobs of negativity who go through the trouble of asking for and applying sauce, but use MILD SAUCE, then…I can’t be a party to this. Mild sauce is an affront to all that is right in the world.”

    I affirmed that I was sauceless in my aspirations and passed the Aqua Velva as the order was placed. The tally for our repast was four dollars and ninety three cents, however the nice lady with purple hair that was hanging out of the second window accepted 3 dollars and a swig of Thunderbird in trade.

    Pulling out of the restaurant and swerving around the cologne induced hallucinations, it occurred to me that the all important question had not only not been answered, it hadn’t even been asked. Since I lost my left hand in a scrapbooking accident, I plopped my stump on the steering wheel and fumbled around in the bag and inspected the contents by the light of the fire smoldering in the ashtray.

    And there it was. Mild Sauce.

    Phil also liked tuna casserole.

  • NRA Liberal

    “Miniseries” strongly implies “dramatic arc” and so far, we’ve just got random character sketches.

  • Houndentenor

    Three bankers? Work for a dozen of them and then maybe you’ll have something to share. See them day in and day out, at their best, worst and everything in between.

    Here’s the skinny IMHO: they aren’t evil. Oh there are a few Bernie Madoffs out there but mostly they have rationalized whatever they are doing. They are out of touch with median income economic reality and aren’t aware they are out of touch. That seems to happen fast to people in the top 1% even those who grew up poor and to both liberals and conservatives. The real lesson though is that in capitalism there is only one moral value and that is profit. If it makes money it’s good. If it loses money it’s bad. End of story. If you want other values from bankers then you have to pressure them in some way so that it’s not profitable to do things that according to other moral criteria are wrong. Asking them to give up making money to be “ethical” or “moral” is a total waste of time. And that’s what I learned on Wall Street. (Not all, but that’s the gist of it.)

    • Baron Siegfried

      In other words, whether it’s shuffling numbers or shipping Zyklon B, they don’t care as long as their quarterly bonus check has enough heft.

  • Primrose

    What was the point of this series? The first banker was not a banker, maybe someone you took a class in finance with. She seems to be under the impression that this illustrates democrats? The second banker spent money. Yeah. Uh. OK? Did he lose the girl because of it? And the last guy thought of running for congress because he had no other job? But didn’t because the money was good. And the point?

    I think Heap’s satire of this series is right on target. Utterly pointless. She gets depressed that she’s unemployed while a person with a mental illness gets to sell brushes door to door. Let me tell you that is nothing to frustration that I, also a writer, do not have a regular column and she does.

    I really don’t like to take pot shots at people who’ve made a success at writing or the young’s trials but this series is utterly pointless. And it tells me nothing. I don’t even know who these people are to her. Friends, classmates, hook-ups? I know nothing about her life. They don’t seem to illustrate any kind of moral philosophical or political tale (even the three bears seems a stretch His Girl Friday). And clearly Galatea embraces the no-narrative movement.

    I am perfectly open to less political articles on Frum Forum, and open to the thoughts of our newest adults. But I am getting the distinct feeling that Mr. Frum is letting the over-privileged children of friends do this to bulk up their resume. They are all bad tempered, judgmental, scornful of everyone else and don’t seem able to understand the difference between actual hardship and normal life. Nor do they have the maturity to understand complexity.

    The troubles of their generation are varied and deep, and would offer much to an aspiring journalist. Yet, these writers seem to have no acquaintances actual going through them. With all the struggling writers out there how do find so many sheltered ones?

    (I’ll give Vivian Darkblum a pass. She was clearly trying to do a Candace Bushnell homage.)

    • Ray_Harwick

      Internal logic: none. Three unrelated alleged relationships with others that add up to a mini-series about nothing. Wouldn’t even work as a Seinfeld episode.

  • Frumplestiltskin

    yeah, heaps story was far better.

  • SinTax

    I feel dumber after reading her stuff. I’ve begun to skip directly to the comments.

  • TJ Parker

    Is this inane stuff pseudonymous because you’re embarrassed to be associated with it, or because the name would reveal nepotism?

    Short stuff like this doesn’t really work if the characters aren’t likeable. This all comes across as gossipy dissing of your more successful classmates. Maybe you can go to work for Michele Malkin and learn to put a little more bile in your stuff. You may be the next Malkin! Or that transvestite, Ann Coulter.

  • Ogemaniac

    “Brian grew up in a rural state with the cards stacked against him—middle-class, scrappy and short, he overachieved his way into being the top finance student in my class”

    Wow. Just wow. I can only image the priveledge one must have experienced as a child in order to spew such ignorance. Brian is in the middle of the pack based on this description, not somewhere near the bottom.

  • Geprodis

    The narrator of the story comes off as a self-important, pseudo-intellectual, phony.