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In a recent interview, President Obama suggested that Wall Street bankers needed to get out of New York once in a while, to gain a fresh perspective on the sufferings of ordinary Americans in the current financial crisis. That comment gave me an idea. I am going to partner with a local tour company and provide “Wall Street Financial Reality Tours,” of St. Louis. Despite the number of out of work Manhattan brokers and financiers, there are still thousands who could benefit from such an experience. This could really get off the ground if the SEC would make it a pre-requisite for receiving bail-out money.
The tour actually begins in Manhattan, when the Wall Street travelers fight their way to the airport in their personal cars and have to look for a parking space in the long term lot. It continues at the check-in line when they are informed that they must fly in commercial coach on a commuter jet with 30 seats. Upon arrival at Lambert, they wait an hour before they are informed that their luggage went to Utah. Then, they are wisked away by Metrolink to the Shrewsbury stop before riding back downtown for a picnic lunch under the Arch. After lunch, they will spend the afternoon at AG Edwards/Wachovia/Wells Fargo or whatever its name will be at the time, and watch a Power Point presentation documenting the businesses in the region which were destroyed in the current meltdown.
Not all of the local reality presented has to be negative. We could make a terrific case for moving the New York Stock Exchange to St. Louis. We could build them the facility of their dreams in Ball Park Village for less than one tenth of the cost in Manhattan, and - we could offer them free rent. We could afford it. The support businesses which would necessarily follow, alone, would put billions into our economy. We could show them 5,000 square foot McMansions in the county listed at a million dollars and then superimpose over the McMansion floorplan a floorplan of their 900 square foot High rise co-op, for which they spent 5 million dollars. Continually moving existing St. Louis businesses from downtown to Clayton and back makes no sense. We need to start thinking really big. This could be our best shot. Forget efforts at landing the Olympic games, I’m talking serious money.
(The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. Louis Public Radio.)
Mark Shook is Rabbi Emeritus at Temple Israel.