Late last week we received our usual dose of hate mail. It read as follows:
Question: Why aren’t you guys covering this emerging economic crisis?. Each time I eagerly come on this site to check out the latest blog, I get disappointed to see it’s about fluff…
This is a huge enough story that I know you can find some ways of relating it to the Indian or Indian-American diaspora.
Even hate-mailers need love from time to time so I thought I would oblige with a bit of an omnibus economic meltdown post that was shaded with a tinge of brown. First up, wanna-be gangsta Sudhir Venkatesh wonders, “with Wall Street tanking, who will think of the prostitutes?”
There are some people who might just benefit from the current turmoil in the financial markets. One probably won’t surprise: lawyers. The other might: sex workers…
I came across these women when I began studying New York’s sex industry at the end of the 1990s. Mayor Rudy Giuliani, in an effort to clean up Manhattan’s neighborhoods, forced sex off the streets of Times Square and other Midtown neighborhoods. In the process, his administration created a new economic sector. I’ve been following the lives of more than 300 sex workers–in New York and Chicago, in high and low ends of the income spectrum since 1999…
One thing I’ve learned is that economic downturns can be boom times for high-end sex workers. Sex workers of the past waited on street corners, outside bars, and around parks, and their transactions were fleeting and usually for a few dollars. Today’s high-end sex workers see themselves as therapists, part of a vast metropolitan wellness industry that includes private chefs and yoga teachers. Many have regular clients who visit them several times per month, paying them not only for sex but also for comfort and affirmation.
That’s probably not all Jean did for her clients. But, as I reported in Slate a few months ago, about 40 percent of high-end sex transactions do not involve a sexual service. It’s not difficult to imagine that a man’s need for positive reinforcement is amplified when a pink slip lands on his desk.[Link]
And speaking of pink slips landing on desks, along with doctors, lawyers, and engineers, the hottest desi profession in the U.S. right now is what I like to generically term: “finance guy/girl.” Many of these finance guys/girls can’t really describe to you what it is they do without using the words “hedge, asset, or capital,” and by that time you are already half asleep. In truth, they may not even know what they really do (but the little bastards make three times my salary with one third the education ). In all seriousness though, I think a disproportionate number of our community in the “white collar end” of this turmoil is an example of how the current credit crisis will affect South Asian Americans (but please stay away from the prostitutes!). What about the blue collar South Asian American?
One thing you’ll note if you look at the Roll Call vote from today is that it was subdivided along racial lines. My African American representative (Al Green-D Texas), along with Sheila Jackson Lee from my neighboring district are both Democrats who voted “no.” They did so with many other members of the African American caucus who, along with their constituents, see this as a bail-out for mostly white BSDs and Fat Cats and not the working class (including many minorities). However, the tragedy here is that if something doesn’t get passed soon, the resulting inability to obtain credit will disproportionately affect lower income households (including many in my district) looking to get loans for housing, transportation, or to open small businesses. This last category will affect many South Asian Americans. The quest to own 100% of American hotels will seriously stall if you can’t get financing to buy up another one. As another example, pretty soon there won’t be any more donut shops in Delaware of the kind that Joe Biden likes to frequent. In short, even though nobody likes the idea of it, something really does need to pass soon.
If only people had any faith left in GW Bush or his Tresuray secretary Hank Paulson things might be going smoother.
That brings me to the last desi angle in this post. Fortune Magazine today named the “50 most powerful women.” How about Indra Nooyi for a cabinet position in the next Administration? I’m not the only one that thinks adding her to the next governing economic team is a good idea. SAJA Forum reported something here:
Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has met with a bipartisan group of business and economic leaders, including India-born PepsiCo chief Indra Nooyi, and he intends convening the group periodically in the run-up to the November election. [Link]
Recently named the world’s top-earning female CEO, Nooyi might find it hard to drop the tiller at PepsiCo for the thickets of world trade. But with the Doha Round recently collapsed and recriminations between developed and developing nations still fresh, Indian-born Nooyi has the background – professional and ethnic -to turn this round [link]
Remember, when you wake up tomorrow email your representative and tell them what you think of all this (but only if your idea is better than Paulson’s).