THE BALLAD OF
[A Tale of Too-Big-To-Fail,
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By Merle Hazard, Marcy Shaffer
& Curtis Threadneedle
I was visiting Charlotte, a town I knew well.
The sunset was scarlet.
I fell under its spell.
At the hotel bar, in the back of the place,
I saw a strangely familiar face:
I knew Diamond Jim from accounts in the press.
He ran a New York bank with skill and finesse.
They say he had brains, but lacked a heart.
J.P. Morgan himself was only half as smart
as Diamond Jim.
Diamond Jim raised a toast, in a bankerly way,
To his massively outsized Wall Street pay.
“Our game is diseconomy of scale.
The key is to be too big to fail,”
said Diamond Jim.
He mocked risk control, called it a sham.
He said there’s no need when you have Uncle Sam.
I thought back to my days at the F.D.I.C.,
And I knew I’d need to confront this S.O.B.,
So I said, “Diamond Jim,
there’s a problem to prevent.
Banks aren’t safe with capital
of just a few percent.
They need more like thirty percent, or higher.
That’s what Simon Johnson
has said they require,
Diamond Jim, “Son, do you know who I am?”
I said, “You're Diamond Jim.
And you know what's a scam?
The crime's not what's criminal.
The crime is what's legal.
You’d be buyin’ fewer diamonds
if we still had Glass-Steagall,
“Low blow!” he cried. “You’re naive,
and a fool.
You have thrown down the gauntlet.
OK, let’s duel!
There are weapons to use
in these banking law cases.
Securities lawyers at thirty paces!”
said Diamond Jim.
So at noon the next day,
hired guns at our side,
and let our corporate lawyers collide.
They fired their mouths off,
a few times at least.
My counsel fell down, desisted, deceased.
because of Diamond Jim.
“You lose,” Diamond Jim said.
“You could never win it.”
With a scoff, he rode off,
in a New York minute.
Well, at least I had tried.
Yet, still, my heart sank.
I started to wonder:
am I really a better man than Diamond Jim?
Because I had come to Charlotte to meet with investors, and to try to start up what I hoped, deep down, would some day be my very own, high-paying, too-big-to-fail bank.
Oh, curse you, Diamond Jim!
Merle Hazard, Joanna Bushnell, Randy Smith
JIM DEMARCO, NASHVILLE PUBLIC TELEVISION
Soprano Part Arrangement & Production
Matt Emigh, Nashville Public Television
Kate Foreman, Tennessee Repertory Theatre
• Special Thanks
- David Shayne, Casey Del Casino, Tom Noser
of Marcy Shaffer & Jon Shayne/Merle Hazard
(segment starts @ 8:26)