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My Own Private Bailout


The author applies to become bank holding company.


Call it Hurricane Louis.

Over the course of the last 8 years, designer handbags ceased to be the exclusive province of the wealthy: Tweens strutted up and down the aisles of American Eagle Outfitters (AEO), tightly clutching their very own Louis Vuitton handbags.

Maybe they got them for Christmas. Or their birthdays. Maybe 10 people went in on the gift, so that $1200 price tag is misleading. It's hardly the point.

So what is? The American consumer, the world's least disciplined, took a good, hard look at the increasingly conspicuous consumption of the well-to-do and decided they, too, wanted a piece of the action. Luxury goods became a mainstream pursuit.

Marketers got wise to this groundswell of entitlement. Las Vegas, once ground zero for swashbuckling motifs and Egyptian ambiance, made luxury its theme du jour. It used to be you could get a room in Sin City on the cheap; now, guests jockeyed for the AAA Five-Diamond service of Bellagio.

We've spent our way into this mess; now the government is determined to spend our way out. But why should troubled financial services companies like Goldman Sachs (GS) and Morgan Stanley (MS) have all the fun? I went to Vegas, ate at Nobu, partook of all kinds of activities I couldn't afford - I want to be rewarded for the gross mismanagement of my finances, too.

So I'm converting myself to a bank holding company.

It's a strategic move that will allow me to accept deposits, which is pretty cool (I'll have to award interest to my depositors, of course, but that will fluctuate according to how deep and how often the Federal Reserve cuts interest rates, so I should be in the clear). But, more importantly, it will make me eligible for a piece of the $700 billion bailout.

The way I see it, all I have to do is prove that I made some really irresponsible decisions, that I failed to spot trends and get out ahead of emerging technology, that I basically continued to operate like I was permanently stuck in 2004, when cheap money padded everybody's bottom line - and that I never, ever, once considered the possibility that the good times wouldn't roll in perpetuity.

Here's a detailed ledger of the poor decision-making I plan to parlay into a healthy bailout, er, loan:

  • Instead of investing what little capital I had saved over the years, I bought cool Berluti boots (only $2400) for me and lots and lots of Stoli Vanilla and Cokes for girls who work in PR.

  • An apartment with a Sub-Zero fridge I totally can't afford. Like, not even close.

  • Five straight years of paying the minimum balance on 4 credit cards.

  • When the chef who used to cook at Blue Mountain Grill, which made the best $22 mac-n-cheese with truffle oil, went out on his own and opened Upstairs Lafayette 426, I just had to go. Cost notwithstanding, it was so worth it. I totally saw the cast of Gossip Girl munching on the signature bone-marrow bruschetta.

I'm confident the Federal Reserve will recognize the "emergency conditions" at play here -- along with the "unusual and exigent circumstances" of my situation -- and process my application posthaste, as it did with American Express (AXP).

That would be the same American Express that only days ago carried a dose of snob appeal: Its renowned Black Card boasts a limitless limit that gives traders and hedge-fund managers a special tingly feeling in their privates.

GMAC, the financial arm of embattled automaker General Motors (GM), which provides automotive financing and insurance, has also applied. Its parent company thought it would be way more awesome to keep manufacturing Hummers than embrace this kind-of-gay alternative energy thing, so it more than qualifies for a handout.

Since the criteria really seem to center on who screwed up most, I'm more than a little optimistic that the Fed will fast-track my application.

No positions in stocks mentioned.
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