Numerous articles in the media are now portraying “Wall Street” – that lusus naturae of our contemporary culture – as the evil that lurks beneath us all. I know that it’s easy to assume that the demons who inhabited human bodies on that twisting alley in lower Manhattan somehow destroyed the US economy. I agree, for the most part. Formerly respectable but now laughable luminaries like Rudy Giuliani and Mike Bloomberg have claimed that Wall Street is being unfairly attacked. The idea that the downfall of the Thains and Fulds was somehow a blow to all of us doesn’t fly very far.
Yet in my own neighborhood – populated almost completely by Wall Street middle-management types – will be the epicenter of a trickle-down effect in the New York City area. Whether this is unfortunate, or a case of “the pigeons coming home to roost,” is debatable. Every day I hear stories of cutbacks – Little Gym memberships unrenewed, cleaning services abandoned, restaurants avoided. My family has cut back. I don’t expect tears. For many Americans, the idea of a life with a nanny and a cleaning service and Little Gyms and music classes and whatnot probably seems excessive and emblamatic of the problems arising from Wall Street.
But in my community, maids and nannies are losing work even more rapidly than the Wall Streeters. Local restaurants are deserted. Local stores are closing. Walking with Little Buddy to the local diner yesterday I noticed – for the first time – a foreclosure notice plastered across a neighbor’s townhouse. Each layoff and foreclosure echoes across our community as another laid off nanny, another cleaning service with no more work.
So the middle management types will suffer. The families won’t go to Applebees. The husbands won’t cart the kids off to classes; the wives won’t supervise cleaning services. Things will fall apart without notice or regret. And no doubt in the years to come times will be better. But in the short term, the people being laid off from Merrill Lynch, Bear Stearns, and a host of other bad guys will also draw their limited resources close, and the economy as a whole will suffer. It’s a chain reaction that will recur throughout the economy, and it will be hard to bear. I hope, for all our sakes, that the economy recovers sooner rather than later. The sooner we can stop the trickle down of the money drought, the better – for everyone.
Photo by IRRI Images