THE COLOR OF MONEY
When economy gets worse, you can dismiss it in verse
By Michelle Singletary
Call me crazy, but I'm of the belief that business doesn't have to be boring.
I shouldn't be telling you this, but my bathroom reading materials are personal finance magazines. I keep BusinessWeek, Money and Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazines there to peruse during the few times I get a break from my three young children.
So when I discovered the financial poems of Michael Silverstein, I was delighted.
He's become the unofficial bard of business. Silverstein, a former senior editor for Bloomberg Financial News in Princeton, N.J., founded the Web site www.wallstreetpoet.com, where "satirical verse gives a fun spin to financial markets."
Silverstein, 61 and retired, says he began writing poems about financial issues to help educate and entertain.
"It occurred to me that there was a singular lack of poetry in financial markets and I decided to fill the gap," Silverstein said in an interview.
"A good poem is a very good way of reaching people at a very visceral level and help them understand very complicated concepts."
For example, when Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan recently warned there was a chance, albeit a small one, that the U.S. economy could be hit by deflation, Silverstein wrote:
My whole life's deflated
It's lost its old puff,
What used to be easy
Has now gotten tough.
By a host of deep downturns
I have been beset,
The only thing rising
Is my credit debt.
"DeflationThe Poem" goes:
My salary's frozen
For hard cash I'm strapped,
The kid's school tuition
My last savings sapped.
The pension I thought
Would make old age less weighty,
Has gone up in smoke
Now I'll work till I'm eighty.
In Silverstein's poem "No Pain at the Top," he muses about the disgustingly high compensation for CEOs and their severance packages:
Profits may tumble and jobs disappear
Bankruptcies soar in a climate of fear
But somehow they thrive, those who know how to rig it
Finessing the levers and jiggling the spigot.
In good times and bad times
The games never stop
Pain sinks to the bottom
Cream stays at the top.
When times they are fat, 'mid great acclamation
The Corporate Elect take a huge extra ration
When times get much leaner they whine and they snivel
Their egos get bruised but their perks never shrivel.
So if you're feeling down about your falling stock portfolio, read some of Silverstein's poems. They're bound to give you a chuckle even if you aren't laughing all the way to the bank.