Investment Bankers as “Crumb Catchers”
So, I’m not the only one who well remembers one of the best books about Wall Street (and best contemporary American novels, period): Thomas Wolfe’s “Bonfire of the Vanities” (1987).
Set in late 1980’s Manhattan, it chronicles life as a “master of the universe” through the prism of one Sherman McCoy, an especially exemplary specimen.
That is, until McCoy’s life suddenly comes undone after he literally takes a middle-of-the-night wrong turn in the Bronx (a mistake that wouldn’t happen today, thanks to ubiquitous GPS software).
Defining Wall Street’s Role
Here is how McCoy’s wife, Judy, dismissively explains what her husband does for a living:
“Just imagine that a bond is a slice of cake, and you didn’t bake the cake, but every time you hand somebody a slice of the cake a tiny little bit comes off, like a little crumb, and you can keep that.”
–“Bonfire of the Vanities”; p. 229
Now, compare that with Mr. Buffett’s characterization of Wall Street on The Daily Show last month:
“We have a huge economy, and people catching the crumbs falling off the table can make a lot of money.”
–The Daily Show (Nov. 27, 2012)
See what I mean??
And all this was before the “crumbs” had six zeroes after them, not eight or nine (for the math-challenged, a number with nine zeroes is a billion).
P.S.: Stewart’s retort to Buffett: “‘Crumb catchers’ — that’s an incredibly honorable way to describe them.”