At the height (depth?) of the Wall Street meltdown last September, a very high-ranking Treasury official was trying to persuade a high profile Investment Banker to do a deal to merge with or take over a large commercial bank. The investment banker was demurring, noting that the merger could well force him to cut on the order of 20,000 jobs from the combined firms in order to make the deal make sense. This, according to an excerpt in Vanity Fair from the new book “Too Big to Fail” by Andrew Sorkin, about the hard battle fought by Washington and Wall Street to avert last Fall’s near-meltdown of the global economy.
20,000? That’s a really big number to try to wrap your head around when it comes to job losses. Too big, really, I think to have much of an impact on most of us. Just like the thought that one in ten is currently unemployed, officially. And when you count those who’ve given up or fallen off the unemployment rolls, probably more like one in seven.
To have meaning, it has to be more personal. Like the old saying that “all politics is local,” in many ways, all economics is local too.
Recently two good friends, very effective execs, lost their jobs on the same day in another of those broad axe swings that big companies do when the numbers tank. In this case, they were two among five hundred let go that day. The two I can relate to — the other 498, less so. The company was one of our key software providers, whose products our company resells, implements and customizes. The people they let go were really good. Good friends, too. But in the end of course, it’s a numbers game. And so they’re gone.
They’ll land on their feet I’m quite sure, and they appear to be doing just fine. In the end, it will be the company’s loss more than theirs. Similarly, a recent blog commenter here noted that several restaurants near her, ones that employed friends and were owned or managed by someone close to her, were in serious jeopardy of going, under. That’s personal. My two friends losing their jobs, that’s personal.
Reminds you of that old joke about the difference between a recession and a depression: A recession is when your neighbor loses his job. A depression is when you lose your job.
And it’s always personal — for someone. Best of luck to Mike and Sally.