How YOU doin’?
I used to see Goldman Sachs alumni everywhere. It was weird – as if they were running things. But today I see a different influence. Now New Jersey and its crazy citizens are everywhere.
In the old days, New Jersey was a small state with no major cities, and its function was simply to keep Philadelphia the hell away from New York. It seemed a good place to dump tires and bury mobsters. Its state bird was a raised middle finger and its state motto was “Yo! Vinnie.”
Now, it is a home to media hits. The Situation and Snooki of MTV’s idiotic show, Jersey Shore. The Sopranos, whose characters talk as if they put half a pouch of Red Man in their mouths and never spit. And then there are those loveable New Jersey housewives.
And let’s not forget sports. When the Packers travel to beat the New York Giants, as they did this week, they actually go to the New Jersey Meadowlands, the swampy site of the fictional Godfather rubouts.
And now my longtime suspicions about New Jersey are confirmed, via the failure of MF Global, a previously obscure futures trader that was taken over by Jon Corzine, former U.S. senator from New Jersey, former one-term governor of the same state, and former head of (holy crap!) Goldman Sachs. Corzine, as governor, had one, and only one, memorable proposal, and that was to privatize the New Jersey Turnpike. As it happens, that is the piece of ruined landscape featured on The Sopranos’ opening credits. Talk about your fixer-upper. That idea never went past Exit 2 of the same roadway.
The issues raised by Corzine’s MF Global are at the heart of our financial and political crisis. For example, why would a primary dealer in U.S. government bonds and a service operation for the futures industry need to borrow billions to throw the dice on European IOUs? While the financial institutions say that they need no more regulation, there is the evidence that Corzine pressed the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to back off from interfering in MF Global’s speculative positions in European sovereign debt. (Gary Gensler, the CFTC’s head, worked with Corzine at Goldman in the 1990s. No word on Gensler’s connections to the Garden State.) Then of course, there is the matter of $1.2 billion of customer funds missing. They were found to be gone a week before Corzine decided to spend more time with his family, so to speak.
MF Global was lightly regulated by that old New Jersey bastion of free market thinking, the CME Group. Never heard of a regulator called a “group”? That’s because the Chicago Mercantile Exchange had been taken over by a private company. And, okay, it is not Jersey’s influence here, but Chicago’s.
But wait! What about Chris Christie of New Jersey, the teacher-baiting, union-busting governor? He must have influenced Gov. Scott Walter, Republican of Wisconsin, right? Christie always said that he would take on the unions, while Walker, nice guy that he is, didn’t want to upset anyone by discussing it ahead of time. Christie responded to a constituent who asked about his kids’ attending a parochial school by saying that it was none of her doggone business. That’s the concept of public servant, Jersey style.
Maybe Walker hasn’t fully embraced his inner Jersey boy. Because he responded to those neighbors in Wauwatosa, Wis., who were collecting signatures for his recall by offering them milk and cookies. You say he stationed a black, Jersey-style Escalade at their front doors? Okay, but I’m pretty sure it had a Wisconsinite’s happy-face bumper sticker.
So Jersey is at the heart of our finances and our politics, but what about culture? Here, I can only point to the case of Christina A., 28, of Buffalo Grove, Ill. She went to Atlantic City for a bachelorette party and in a tragic misstep, went to an animal shelter instead of a tattoo parlor. Rather than a piercing, she got a doggie ID. (It identifies her as Tina, age 4.)
The effect? Not much, except when she drives her Escalade through the Tollway I-Pass, she involuntarily lets out a howl.
Just like Snooki.
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