Private Equity

Once upon a time you wanted to be a musician. You saw the Beatles on “Ed Sullivan,” heard the catchy tunes, saw the screaming girls, and said…I WANT TO DO THAT!

No longer.

No one’s got tunes that catchy, hell, do you really want to be Pharrell singing “Happy”? And the lifestyle of musicians pales with respect to those with real money, the bankers.

What do the bankers make? What do they do? I could explain it to you, but I wouldn’t have to kill you after imparting this wisdom, for you’d be asleep, or your eyes would have glazed over, because that’s just how interesting banking and buying and selling corporations is. Although you do make a ton of money, more money than most people can calculate.

Yes, Stephen A. Schwartzman, a household name if I’ve ever heard one, made $375 million last year. Leon D. Black, of that famous band Apollo, did just a little bit better, $546.3 million. Oh, of course they’ve got all those road expenses, the stage, the roadies, the private jets… No, there are no expenses, and if perhaps there are, their clients pay them, and according to a story in the “New York Times,” their investors pay expenses that don’t even exist. It’s kind of like the band charging you ten bucks a month for years after you saw them at the Garden or Staples. But you don’t bitch, because you had the privilege of being at the show.

Huh?

I’m a smart guy. We can debate how much is DNA and how much is a result of Jewish family push. But all I knew from the moment I stepped onto the school ground was I was going to college, I told my kindergarten friends I was going to be a lawyer, because that’s what was drummed into me by my dad. He wanted me to become a professional, he wanted not to worry about me after he was gone. Today professionals are chumps.

Yes, chumps.

That’s what the mainstream doesn’t understand. That the best and the brightest have no desire to ply the stage, to do creative work, to see their name in lights. They’re happy just cashing the check and making sure you can’t live in Manhattan, or have to park miles away from the lifts because they’ve bought up all the real estate at the ski area base.

So the rich get richer, and the poor stay dumb.

In other words, if I was graduating from college today, I wouldn’t go into the music business. And I’m not dumb enough to develop an app, or start some other long shot business. I’d do what the Ivy alumni do, go straight to where the money is, the banks. Isn’t that what Willie Sutton said, when asked why he robbed banks, he said “Because that’s where the money is!”

Money. It’s got economic consequences. Those with brains follow it. And those who have it are constantly shaving points, because that seems to be the nature of the human condition, enough is never enough, how can I make just a little bit more, especially if most people have no idea how I’m doing it.

In other words, if you’re a smart, hard-working person, you too are a chump. You work for a company that will lay you off on a whim and lose your pension with a shrug. They don’t care about you. Just ask your kid, done with college, sleeping on your couch, he knows the score.

But too many of these kids don’t go to college. And too many who do don’t get the memo. Sure, the degree might get you in the front door where someone else may not, but what is the house you’re entering?

And the point is our whole society has changed. Sure, some of these rich people give away some of their money, but on a percentage basis, much less than the poor and middle class. And their heirs will have this cash for eons, perpetuating a two class society. And if you don’t think the heirs of the rich are frequently do-nothing doofuses, you don’t know any.

But we’re not going to abolish banking and there will always be some people richer than others.

But we can have a discussion about it. How the fabric of our country is being ripped apart while we’re not watching. How ignorant musicians think that by getting a sponsor they’re ripping off the system, but truly, the joke is upon them.

If someone told me in college that their father was a stockbroker, that he worked on Wall Street, it meant that they made the same amount of money as a doctor. About 20k a year. And who’d want to do that gig anyway, commuting into the city.

But today all the hedge funds are in Fairfield County, and college is 60k a year. Who’s got that cash?

The rich bankers. Who can send their scions there, while you can’t.

Furthermore, all these elite institutions survive on their endowments, 60k doesn’t even cover the cost of a year of schooling, so they’re beholden to the bankers who control their money.

So America looks completely different from when I grew up.

Ronald Reagan legitimized greed, Michael Milken went to jail, but the end result is even worse. The American Dream is alive and well for a limited elite, and the rest of the public is too ignorant to understand how they make it.

And you can’t explain it to them. Because they don’t want to know. Because it eviscerates hope. When you tell them their track is not good enough you’re the doofus, because they’re going to prove you wrong, but they never do, all they’ve got is their willpower, and tell the VC that’s why you want a job at the firm, he’ll laugh you out of the office.

Snooki is already gone. As is Paris Hilton. Kim Kardashian got married yesterday and it’s merely months before she’s toast. Because that’s what those famous for nothing do, they disappear. Some of the work of great musicians lasts, but try humming the last decade’s hits and then tell me they’re gonna be around in fifty years, like the Beatles’ songs, yeah, right.

But we’re lining up to sing on TV shows, as if the real winner weren’t Fox.

We’re bitching about streaming payouts when the problem is not Spotify, but the audience, that doesn’t want to pay fourteen dollars for a CD, never gonna happen, they’re broke and even though the dope-smoking musicians say they should be moral, ain’t that a laugh, they see everybody else breaking the rules so why shouldn’t they?

And no one wants to read about it, because it’s arcane and boring.

But when you go to buy a house. When you get a seven year loan to acquire a car. When you have a desire to do but your bank account says no… Then you know you’re living in the new America. One wherein the problem isn’t a government spending your money, but a government rigged to benefit the rich, which you voted to give them the power to do, all in the name of lower taxes…

Ha!

“The Deal’s Done. But Not The Fees”

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