Sunday, May 17, 2009

We Don't Have Time For Main Street

The mantra on Wall Street this past year has been how Main Street is connected to Wall Street. You know, what is good for Wall Street must be good for Main Street, so let's all chip in and fix the banks because if we don't fix Wall Street then Main Street will never recover. It sounds nice, but it is just a bunch nonsense to sell the bailouts and stimulus packages to an unknowing and ill-informed taxpayer.

Wall Street still remains disconnected from Main Street and watching this video of Maria Bartiromo interviewing car dealer, Jack Fitzgerald, this dynamic is very apparent. As we learn in the interview, Mr. Fitzgerald has 32 car dealerships under the "Fitzgerald" name. Oh, and he has 50 years of experience in the car business. He is "Main Street".

I actually saw this interview live and as it was unfolding, I kept wondering why Ms. Bartiromo couldn't interview him. Gone was the breathlessness. There was no adulation. Yet here you had a person, Mr. Fitzgerald, with a front row seat to the drama unfolding in our economy, and there were no questions that could bring out the insight that he must have from his many years of building a business.

Of course, we have the "breaking news" flash or graphic towards the end of the video where Warren Buffet is buying more shares of Johnson and Johnson and US Bancorp. From this point on, there are no more questions from Ms. Bartiromo, and she hastily sums up the interview with "geez, it must be tough out there especially with the competition to produce fuel efficient cars". Uhh, where did that come from? No doubt Ms. Bartiromo was distracted getting the "breaking news" in her ear piece. Shortly after the interview ended, the anchor sent it over to the "breaking news" desk.

Ok, Mr. Fitzgerald thanks for your time and we wish you good luck. Now we have to get back to our regular mission of "juicing" the market. We don't have time for Main Street.


ZachA said...

Very trenchant observation. I am sure if I had come across it I would think nothing of it.

I can say with near certainty that a CNBC interview with Ken Lewis would be conducted much differently. Absent would be the dismissive, "tough shit" tone to be replaced with a level of understanding, admiration, and trust.

The symbolism is also rich. With all the talk of "green shoots", the "second derivative", and "inflection points" with regard to broader economy (and subsequent run-up in equity markets), I wonder when there will be a change in the first derivative on main street sentiment. Certainly there is a level of complacency among the masses when it comes to bailing out the reckless financial institutions, their management, and their bondholders / shareholders. If there wasn't, such nonsense would not be allowed to continue. However, at some point I would think such complacency will reach its boiling point as the reality of a much lower standard of living coupled with rising taxes / reduction of public services while Wall Street enjoys endless infusions of cash for incompetence will set in. When is anyone’s guess.

Guy M. Lerner said...

Zach A:

Thanks for the feedback!

I may be only joking but the masses will remain complacent as long as they have their cable TV and cell phones; take those "necessities" away then we can have real change (maybe?)

ZachA said...

I agree with your assessment. As long as my iPhone 3G (and soon to be 4G) capability is up and running my ranting will be just that - ranting. I think that is probably true for most.

Nonetheless, social unrest can turn on a dime and move exponentially fast. While I still tend to believe it won't happen, in the event it does the masters of the universe have built up massive amounts of ill will with the help of CNBC, which could translate into a massive lynch mob tsunami.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this video. Your commentary was spot on. Still waiting for Obama to "grow the economy from the bottom up". No one in the drive-by media seems to call him on it. Good job.

Guy M. Lerner said...

Thanks and good point on your point too about the need to grow the economy from the bottom up ...there is no foundation despite the strong rhetoric out of Washington