If you're working on Wall Street today, it's likely you're scoping out every opportunity to cash in on the current episode of Middle Eastern misery, especially in the profit potential brought on by uprising in Egypt.
This unsettling display of blood-equals-money isn't unusual; after all, the much admired Oracle of Omaha, Warren Buffett, C.E.O. of Berkshire Hathaway, has for decades urged investors to buy when there's metaphorical blood in the streets. We have yet to witness a real bloodbath in Cairo, but the situation is sufficiently volatile to excite Wall Street bottom feeders.
Some of America's flushest companies do a great deal of business with the Mubarak regime. The energy and food sectors are especially active. When the streets are quiet it's business -- and steady profits -- as usual. But in an environment of uncertainty and civil unrest, traders salivate over the bargains that are sure to arise among the big multinational corporations.
When things look darkest, the prices of those multinationals take a "haircut." Buy low, sell high becomes an easy game to play. Wall Street is prepared to pounce when chaos and pain present classic buying opportunities, especially in a country like Egypt. Though now in disarray, the nation will likely rebound to a more stable environment that will cause those beaten down stock prices to pop.
The financial blogosphere is urging investors on. It's reminiscent of ancient Romans cheering in the Coliseum for the triumph of lions over helpless Christians. The more blood spilled, the greater the roar from the mob of privileged onlookers. Wild animals ripping into human bodies might have been good sport centuries ago. Presumably we have evolved past ancient blood lust -- everywhere, that is, except the in world's money centers, and especially on Wall Street.
Major players in the investment community are backing off the gold and silver markets, at least for now. The current "smart money" -- the major banks, brokerages and hedge funds -- are going for the jugular: food and energy, because these sectors are where the real money is at. Life depends upon these commodities, and they are therefore most exploitable.
Egypt isn't the only profit center where human misery ranks high on the scale of exploitation. Much of Latin America holds the promise of big bucks, especially as conditions decline in those labor markets. And the pain now being felt in the Euro zone, where austerity is the new byword, is filled with opportunities to cash in on currency gyrations. The troubles plaguing Portugal, Ireland, England and Greece make Wall Street eager to pounce. At the heart of Europe's austerity there is big money to be made -- and of course nothing beats betting on war. Just ask Halliburton.
What are we to make of all this? A good, nimble capitalist discounts the human equation in favor of charts and graphs that track the moving averages of the Dow and Standard and Poor indexes. It's just business. Never mind inconvenient matters of life and death.
We can look to our own recent history for examples of the kind of exploitation that shuns civilized behavior. The financial meltdown of 2008, the off-shoring of jobs, our relentless race to the bottom present clear examples of money trumping culture and life itself.
And the beat goes on. Huge bonuses are paid on Wall Street to those who risk the health of the nation and get away with it. As for those pesky new financial regulations: forget about it! At this writing, not one person who participated in the 2008 meltdown has been fitted with a striped suit; instead, they have reaped huge personal rewards for their successful redistribution of wealth to the top 2 percent of the population.
In Egypt, fraught with similar woes brought to a feverish pitch, we see the same ruthless behavior. In the streets of Cairo we hear voices protesting a lack of jobs and opportunity for millions of educated young people. We hear cries of despair from those who are barely able to feed their families. Homelessness plagues the country. The protestors rail against the consolidation of wealth and power at the top.
Does any of this strike a familiar chord with our own disenfranchised middle classes?
But never mind. Above the cries of protest Wall Street hears only the familiar metallic sound of victory: Ka-ching!
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