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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

For Some, a Very Happy Thanksgiving

Posted By on Wed, Nov 24, 2010 at 9:32 PM

This Thanksgiving, Americans still have much to be thankful for. Well, some of them do, anyway.

Such as Brian Brille, who is the head of Bank of America Asia Pacific. In September he celebrated his 50th birthday with a posh party in Hong Kong. “Mr. Brille, who is well known on the New York social scene, wore a gray Hugh Hefner-esque jacket,” reports the New York Times. "Women dressed like Playmates, with feather boas and satin ears, danced behind a pink silk screen.”

Mr. Brille’s birthday party was just one sign that Wall Street is returning to its old high-flying, free-spending ways, according to the Times.

“Real estate agents say Wall Street executives have already begun lining up rentals in the Hamptons for next summer,” the Times story continues. “Dolly Lenz of Prudential Douglas Elliman said the bidding this year was ‘hotter and heavier’ than previous years. … She said her clients, almost exclusively from Wall Street, were afraid to lose out. Just recently, Ms. Lenz said, she had three people bidding more than $400,000 for a summer rental in Southampton.”

That’s for a rental, you understand. I hope towels and soap are included.

The good times are rolling beyond Wall Street, too. In today’s issue the Times also reports that business profits are smashing all records: “American businesses earned profits at an annual rate of $1.659 trillion in the third quarter, according to a Commerce Department report released Tuesday. That is the highest figure recorded since the government began keeping track over 60 years ago, at least in nominal or non-inflation-adjusted terms.”

Not bad, considering how “anti-business” the Obama administration supposedly is.

Meanwhile, us working slobs are being urged to tighten our belts to help the nation dig its way out of the deficit. Bulletin Editor John Costa, inspired by reading about the hardships endured by the Continental Army, was moved to issue a plea to his fellow Americans last Sunday.

“I have been reading this wonderful book [Ron Chernow’s new biography of George Washington] while commissions and committees in Washington, D.C., are outlining ideas to deal with an equally significant threat to our nation — the potential collapse of our financial being,” Costa wrote. “Those ideas are described in the language of sacrifice. To fight this battle we are being asked, among many things, to work a few more years before retirement, to do without a few public services, to reform a tax code with thousands of pages of loopholes, to pay a little more for the best health care in the world, etc. …

“There will be some pain, and there will certainly be disruption, but it doesn’t quite summon up images of Valley Forge, does it?”

Okay, I wouldn’t mind sacrificing a little for the financial salvation of the nation. I just want to know when Brian Brille and his compeers are going to do some sacrificing too.

Would it kill Wall Street bankers and CEOs with seven- and eight-figure annual incomes to pay just a teensy-weensy bit more in taxes to help bring the deficit down?

I realize it might mean no new Bentley this year, or cutting short the annual Christmas ski vacation in Gstaad, or perhaps renting a slightly more modest summer place in the Hamptons for, say, $300,000 or even $200,000.

It’ll be rough, I know. There will be pain. But to borrow Mr. Costa’s apt phrase, “It doesn’t quite summon up images of Valley Forge, does it?”

Happy Thanksgiving.

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