Some sort of seasonal affective disorder seems to have infected the media. Back in December it was all about celebrating the huge Wall Street bonuses and lavish spending. Now in the dark days of mid-February, it's all downer stories. Look at the rash of articles in the last couple of days detailing the depressing facts about being a top earner. As we explained this morning, your job on Wall Street won't get you laid. It may actually be driving the ladies away. And today the Times reports that tearing apart that floor-through you bought with your bonus and building the apartment of your dreams probably isn't going to make you happy either (viaGawker).
But the truly bad news comes from the New York Observer's Michael Thomas. No matter how much money you make, someone is making more. And that blows. (Also, you've to to love the shoutout Thomas gives to Grant's Interest Rate Observer, the source of the most prefect Wall Street envy cartoon ever. Hint: we've used it to illustrated this item.)
I recognized this dissonance as the earliest stage of a cancerous awareness that I have seen destroy the moral composure and joy in life of more than one vastly rich person—a vastly rich person, that is, whose vast riches date back less than a decade. For some reason, the oldveaux are spared; only the newveaux suffer. The bottom line, however, is that it’s horrible to watch, this inexorable wasting progress, a metastasizing realization that no matter how much money one has, someone out there has more—that there’s something they can afford that you can’t.
This is a disease for which there is no cure. No matter how lightly Artie and I tried to talk away from the subject, no matter how intently we focused on the mess in the subprime credit market (which has come as a great surprise to Wall Street and the rating agencies in recent weeks, although readers of Jim Grant’s indispensable Grant’s Interest Rate Observer have been aware of trouble to come for the better part of a year), I could sense Artie’s malaise. It lingered in the background, like Polonius concealed behind the arras.
When we hung up, I was sad. One of the heavier burdens borne by we who live in reduced circumstances is our inability to cheer up our richest friends. There was a time, I recall, when this was possible, when wit, intelligence and charm mattered, but this is no longer possible in an era in which Dun & Bradstreet is society’s matchmaker of choice and placement is determined by net worth.