Jonathan Greenberg,

Jonathan Greenberg,

A weeklong electronic journal.
Sept. 28 1998 12:30 AM

Jonathan Greenberg,

VIEW ALL ENTRIES

       Sunday evening. Something strange has happened to me. In sorting through the Sunday New York Times, I no longer automatically throw away the "Business" pages, as I do the "Classifieds," "Automotive," colorful advertising fliers, and inexplicably numerous "Style," "Food," "Dining," "Living," and "New York Life" sections.
       Ever since I joined the millions of Americans who have taken their life savings out of FDIC-insured savings accounts that charge more in ATM fees than they yield in interest, and blindly invested those same life savings in any number of more-or-less randomly chosen mutual funds, I now keep the Business section around the apartment
       for a week to 10 days before finally reuniting it with the rest of the paper in the green recycling barrel out in front of my building. Very rarely do I actually read the Business pages, and even more rarely do I remember the three-letter code for my mutual fund, and still more rarely do I remember how much the fund was worth the last time I checked so I know whether I won or lost money. But I have taken that first fatal step in going over to the other side.
       If you didn't know my reputation for easily shrugging off all kinds of misfortune, you might think that I'm just bitter, since I invested in funds on the day that the market first hit 9,300 and some guy in a suit on Jim Lehrer's NewsHour declared there was "no end in sight" to the then-current bull run. But it's not the loss of 10 percent or 20 percent that bothers me. As a veteran investor, I recognize that vanished money is a mere "bump in the road" as my new wife and I make our way down the path to a comfortable retirement.
       No, what irks me is that I can no longer derive fits of perverse glee whenever I see on the nightly news those magnificent computer-animated, downward-plunging arrows that appear whenever stocks take a big tumble. I used to be safely on the outside: a middle-class, liberal intellectual who delighted at the thought of corporate fat cats losing millions, screaming at underlings, jumping out of skyscrapers. October 1987 was wonderful. I remember it fondly, in warm sepia tones. I was back in college. It was the morning after the big "correction." All those obnoxious classmates of mine who not only owned stocks but also were brazen enough to refer to them as "equity holdings" were utterly distraught over the devastation of their portfolios. I, meanwhile, strutted around the dining hall, eating my eggs, proudly declaring that "you shouldn't invest in the market unless you really know what you're doing."
       Eleven years later, one puny investment has forever deprived me of such happiness. Now my fate is connected, by however thin a thread, to that of the Military-Industrial Complex, to Global Capital, to NAFTA and GATT and the deregulation of utilities. I even see the logic of bailing out hedge funds. I even know what a hedge fund is! God help us all.