People who love money seem to be having a very difficult time of it at present.
It must be hard not knowing whether you are rich, very rich or wealthy to an uncontrollable obscenity at any given point of the day.
Which is why I am very concerned about Meredith Whitney.
If you have not heard of Ms. Whitney, well, you can see her occasionally on Fox News, telling you which horses to back in the fourth race at Belmont.
At least, that is how it seems to me.
In fact, Forbes, the money magazine that appears to be part-owned by that famous capitalist crusader, Bono, believes Ms. Whitney to be the number two stock picker in America.
That’s bloodstock without the blood.
So it should not be at all surprising to hear that she has lately been receiving death threats.
Ms. Whitney suggested to her followers and, indeed, anyone else who might listen, that you shouldn’t back a horse called Citigroup, even if you’d just come into $500 billion, had stage 4 cancer, and were due to pop your clogs on the 37th breath.
I won’t bore you with the details of her argument, because, well, how could I possibly understand it?
However, she appears to have upset some people who had backed the Citigroup horse heavily.
You may think I am not taking this situation seriously. Please wash your mouth out with the bile of a thousand salamanders.
I do not want Ms. Whitney to become the next subject for a Law and Order episode. There is surely only so much sanctimoniousness one can take from a District Attorney who spends his spare time telling you to trade stocks using the medium of TD Waterhouse.
The irony would just be too painful.
However, I do want to ask some questions. Well, one.
Can someone, anyone, please explain to me the difference between Wall Street and Vegas?
In both cases, it seems to me that people turn up with money, wanting to make more money on some kind of race. Be it six furlongs, one and half miles or three consecutive quarters.
Each gambler relies on expert information.
Take your pick, the Wall Street Journal or the Daily Racing Form.
Then, each gambler tries to discover some inside information.
Take your pick, a groom at the horse’s stables or a CFO at the pharmaceutical company’s headquarters.
Each seems to shovel a similar sort of substance.
Yet one activity seems to be banned in every state but Nevada and New Jersey (oh, and let’s not forget those islands in the sun called the Indian Reservations), while the other is supposed to be the ethanol that powers our society to ever-greater moments.
Please can you understand this Pond-Dweller’s confusion?
I have spent many an afternoon in the OTB on the corner of Broadway and 72nd Street (social research, you understand..) and watched men staring at screens, screaming at screens, willing their temporary four-legged friends to poke their noses first past the post.
The only difference between these people and the hoardes in South Manhattan who stare at screens, scream at screens, willing their temporary two-legged friends to poke their noses first past the forecast is that in the latter example the men aren’t risking all the money they have in the world.
If they’re threatening to kill sweet Ms. Whitney, perhaps they are.
Which makes me wonder- and I hope Ms. Whitney can help me with finding an answer.
Is it possible that gambling on horses, tall men with a large ball, large men with a pointy ball, fat men with a small ball, is severely restricted because, if it wasn’t, all those who currently gamble their money on Wall Street, would stick exclusively to something that they actually enjoy?
And then where would we be?
Surely a far better alternative would be to sex up the Manhattan offering. Let’s build a few hotels around the Street. A Luxor, an Excalibur, perhaps even a Wynn, Manhattan. (The Wynn name was surely made for Manhattan.)
Instead of Race and Sports Books, these emporia would have Trading Places, vast bars with mammoth leather recliners in front of trading screens. They would have serving staff dressed as traders, who would offer you every conceivable libation and stimulation.
The latest Wall Street positions would waft across the 200-foot screens every 15 seconds and you could gamble on how much these numbers would change every five minutes.
As in Vegas, there would be restrictions on knowing what time of day it is, so when Wall Street closes, you could gamble on another market somewhere else in the world.
In this way, gamblers could continue to support the world economy, rather than some dubious stable in Kentucky, with their funds.
Of course, just as in Vegas, these hotels would not be able to have balconies. (Rather a large number of people seem to choose Vegas as their place to self-immolate.)
However, no other restrictions should be placed on guests.
As additional entertainment, there would be the occasional prize fight between stock tipsters.
The first would surely feature that chap who seems to have his voice permanently set on scream- James Cramer, the CNBC stock picker.
For his opponent, might I suggest the very underrated John Layfield.
He is the author of a book called Have More Money Now.
And, as if his resume knows no bounds, he is also a former World Champion of Worldwide Wrestling Entertainment. Indeed, he regularly offered Nazi salutes to wrestling crowds- yes, even in Munich, Germany.
Oh, I almost forgot.
He is Meredith Whitney’s husband.
What could celebrate the coming together of Wall Street and Vegas better than that?