Commentary: Dude, Where's My Bailout?
Honorable Public Servants: As you know, the conflagration in the subprime mortgage market is beginning to singe the very fabric of the American dream, by which I mean life, liberty, and the pursuit of home equity. I was elated to hear everyone from bond guru Bill Gross to Democratic Presidential hopefuls endorsing the idea of a government bailout of homeowners facing foreclosure as the payments on their zero-money-down mortgages soar.
Bad credit? No credit? No problem! Uncle Sam has your back.
I don't have a mortgage, much less one that's about to blow up. But I have no shortage of other losses, some of them quite painful, from the many well-considered investments I've made over the years. Therefore, under the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution, I'm entitled to a bailout as well. At least that's what my law school buddies tell me.
Here's an annotated invoice:
STOCKS. In the dot-com heyday, I had the misfortune of buying shares of two companies that went poof within 12 months: Excite@Home, the residential high-speed Internet provider, and Allied Riser, a commercial broadband startup. (I was diversified—homes and offices.) Subtotal: Seven long years of regret and pitiful looks from my CPA have encouraged me to repress the exact sum of my capital losses, but for expediency's sake let's put it at $60,000.
MUTUAL FUNDS. I also invested in a tragicomic Putnam fund that somehow managed to lose an average of 44% a year between 2000 and 2002. It turns out that Putnam Investments (MMC ) was also at the heart of the market-timing scandal. Yet I never got any checks in the mail from Eliot Spitzer or from the investment pros who all but forced me to buy the shares. Subtotal, including compounded pain and suffering: $10,000.
PERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS. At about the same time, I was getting irrationally exuberant about a beautiful brunette, spending my paper stock gains on a series of expensive dates in Manhattan. There were mezzanine seats at Broadway plays, candlelit dinners in Greenwich Village, and enough orders to 1-800-Flowers (FLWS ) to line the streets of Pyongyang on Kim Jung Il's birthday. Oh, and cab fares. Lots of those. Then, sometime between NASDAQ 5000 and the end of the Elián Gonzáles saga, said brunette dumped me. She broke my heart, but only after she broke my bank account. Subtotal: About $3,000, including $1,000 in self-prescribed Johnnie Walker Blue.
COLLECTIBLES. Twenty years ago, I was the last kid on my block to score a coveted "first series" Garbage Pail Kids trading card, for a total consideration of $25 in cash, three bags of Doritos, and the guitar Dad bought me in the second grade. Then the Garbage Pail market crashed. But the Los Angeles Dodgers dramatically won the '88 World Series, and my enthusiasm shifted to baseball. By 1990, with bar mitzvah winnings in hand, I shelled out for a José Offerman rookie card. Fifty bucks bought me the Lucite-encased visage of this dynamic Dodgers infielder, who knocked a home run in his first major league at bat. I figured it would double in price during every season of Offerman's promising career. Instead, his résumé came to entail mediocre stints with seven teams, culminating with the August clubbing of a pitcher in an independent-league game that invited two counts of second-degree assault. Subtotal: How can I attach a cold sum to the shattered dreams of a middle schooler? Sigh. $1,400.
Please remit my $74,400 by check, money order, or PayPal (EBAY ). Rest assured that I will cycle the dollars back into economically vital investments. I hear some hedge funds are slashing their minimum buy-ins to $10,000, and that half-finished condos in Miami can be gotten for pennies on the original dollar. In any case, my efforts to bolster the U.S. gross domestic product could surely be strengthened by a series of interest rate cuts, so please see to those, too. After all, gentlemen, while intrepid investors like me crank the engine of American capitalism, times like these call for all of us to pitch in.
By Roben Farzad