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Tom Purcell

A 2014 'Gift of the Magi'

| Saturday, Dec. 6, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

A giant Manhattan penthouse and a summer home in the Hamptons. That was all. There was nothing Sabrina could do but plop onto her designer couch and cry.

Christmas was a week away, but Sabrina didn't have enough money to buy the one gift her husband, Beckett, had dreamed of: hair transplants.

Beckett, meanwhile, had been desperate to scrape $20,000 together to buy Sabrina the Christmas gift she longed for: saline implants.

But money was tight. True, their fortunes had improved dramatically since the economic collapse of 2008. As the housing bubble burst and a massive correction rippled through the world's economies, Sabrina found herself out of work.

Beckett also lost his job in 2008. As an investment banker at a large New York firm, his risky investments, and occasional illegal dealings, lost billions for his employer. It's amazing he wasn't in jail.

As the massive flow of commission checks and bonuses halted, Sabrina and Beckett lost their penthouse and summer home to foreclosure.

“It's not fair!” said Sabrina, sobbing.

Fortunately, Sabrina and Beckett would not suffer for long — because Wall Street would not suffer for long.

Wall Street banks were too big to fail, after all — their failure would have sent the economy into an unimaginable tailspin that would have had an effect greater than the Great Depression.

The Federal Reserve began buying up the bad debt the banks were holding — or laundering that bad debt, as some economists refer to it — essentially whitewashing the many bad business decisions, some of them criminal, that the bankers had made.

Former Federal Reserve official Andrew Huszar, who managed the Fed's $1.25 trillion mortgage-backed-security buying spree, explained in The Wall Street Journal that the Fed's “quantitative easing” (QE) has been enriching Wall Street bankers at the expense of the public.

“The central bank continues to spin QE as a tool for helping Main Street. But I've come to recognize the program for what it really is: the greatest backdoor Wall Street bailout of all time ... . The banks hadn't just benefited from the lower cost of making loans. They'd also enjoyed huge capital gains on the rising values of their securities holdings and fat commissions from brokering most of the Fed's QE transactions.”

Sabrina and Beckett surely benefited from the Wall Street windfall.

Beckett was soon making huge commissions and bonuses as an investment banker. Sabrina was soon making big commissions, too, selling real estate to wealthy bankers.

The two had almost made a full recovery to regain their lavish, pre-2008 lifestyle. But since their credit hadn't yet fully recovered, they had to make sizable down payments to buy back their penthouse and summer home. That is why they lacked the funds for Christmas gifts.

But then Sabrina got an idea. She knew a mortgage broker and appraiser who could overstate the value of her penthouse so she could get an inflated home-equity loan!

When Christmas Eve arrived, Sabrina explained to Beckett how she was able to secure the money she needed to pay for his hair transplants.

Beckett began laughing uncontrollably.

“What is so funny?” said Sabrina.

“You didn't need to borrow against the penthouse,” he said. “My bank did so well this year, my bonus was big enough to pay for your saline implants!”

“Oh, Beckett!”

Suddenly, Sabrina noticed something different about her husband's male-pattern baldness: It was gone!

“What happened to your hair?” she said.

“My bonus was so big, I had enough to fly to Beverly Hills to have my hair implants done!”

Sabrina and Beckett laughed at all the unnecessary trouble Sabrina had gone through the previous week.

It was a Merry Christmas after all.

Tom Purcell, a freelance writer, lives in Library. Visit him on the web at E-mail him at:

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