The Local: Wall Street on Election Eve

wallstreetsign 1 0 The Local: Wall Street on Election EveRocky Twyman, a Seventh Day Adventist who rallied hundreds of Americans to pray for lower fuel prices at gas stations across the country last spring and summer, camped in front of the New York Stock Exchange on Halloween for the inauguration of his latest movement: "Pray Down the Greed on Wall Street."

"This is just the beginning of our movement," Mr. Twyman said as a camera crew lingered impatiently for an interview. "We are going to do all we can to alert these Wall Street executives that God is watching them. God is over all of this. He is the one that can destroy them if they keep doing this. They are destroying lives.”

Tourists and the press were enthralled, but none of the Wall Street workers that walked by heeded Mr. Twyman’s call to pray to "the God of their choice" at 3 p.m. to restore the country’s economy. Though the financial markets continue to expose the limits of laissez-faire capitalism on a nearly daily basis, Wall Street still seems to have maintained its faith in the invisible hand’s guidance.

More than half of the 20 investment-banker types I approached on a two-block strip of Wall Street last Thursday and Friday said they were planning to vote for Senator John McCain, while only two said they would cast a ballot for Senator Barack Obama, and two others said they were not going to vote. The rest refused to be interviewed, even with their identities kept anonymous, because their companies had forbade employees from speaking to the press.

“I strongly disagree with most of Obama’s economic and foreign policies,” a middle-aged smoker outside the Deutsche Bank building said of why he intends to vote for Senator McCain. “Higher taxes, increased government regulation, increased nationalization of health-care policies,” he said, shaking his head. “He’s a socialist.” Nonetheless, he begrudgingly admitted that Senator Obama has more support than any other Democratic candidate in decades. “I’d say it’s split fifty-fifty.”

Nearby, a twenty-something Republican sharing a cigarette with a Democratic colleague summed up the prevailing sentiment shared by the majority of the Republicans on Wall Street when it comes to why they’re voting for Senator McCain: “Because I’m a Republican and I always have been." He declined to elaborate because he did not want to talk to the media so close to his office. His co-worker was similarly terse. “I am voting for Obama because I want to see a change,” he said. “But I am in the minority.”

Most Wall Streeters said their decision to vote for John McCain had less to do with his merits as a candidate than with party affiliation or the perceived deficiencies of his opponent.

A young man eating lunch inside the public atrium at 60 Wall Street said he does not find either candidate appealing but is so turned-off by the Chicago senator’s proposed economic policies that he is going to vote Republican. “I will say I don’t really like either one of them that much,” he said. “But philosophically, I believe more in [Mr. McCain’s] public and economic and foreign policy. I just believe in laissez-faire economics.

“Plus, I don’t know where he’s going to be getting all this money, especially because we have such a huge deficit right now,” he added of Senator Obama’s proposals. “So to be saying he’s going to be spending all this money and giving tax cuts to so many people, it just doesn’t seem to add up to me.”

A victory for Senator Obama would “hurt big business,” he said, though he does not expect either candidate to have a profound effect on the economy or the financial services industry since the bailout plan is already in place.

Another young, suited man in the atrium worried that “there would be a lot of sell-offs” before Senator Obama takes office, should he win.

“If his plan does go through and he raises capital gains, a lot of the older people, like the baby boomers who want their money in the next four years might pull their money out sooner than if McCain was in office,” he said. While his decision to vote Republican is “more of a tax thing,” some of Senator Obama’s alleged relationships with a handful of shady public figures also concern him. “I go to Wall Street.com and Google News and just kind of pull from a lot of different sources and my personal opinion is that McCain would run the country better. Listening to a lot of commercials and reading online about some of the connections Obama has had…,” he trailed off, shaking his head.

According to a vendor of Obama paraphernalia at Wall Street and Broadway, both camps have cheerleaders lurking in the ranks of the financial services industry. Most of his customers are tourists, but occasionally Wall Street workers do ask him for Senator McCain merchandise.

“I’ve been looking everywhere for some,” the vendor said hopelessly. “But I can’t find McCain stuff anywhere.”

Even if the vendor had a ready supply, its buyers might not be the most enthusiastic customers.

“I’m voting for McCain because I’m a Republican,” said one man smoking outside of 40 Wall Street–even though, he added, a Democratic victory would mean “nothing” to the economy. “He’s not going to do a thing and neither is McCain,” he chuckled. “What are they going to do? It’s going to be the way it’s going to be for the next couple years.”

He shrugged, and waved his hand dismissively when asked about Senator Obama’s plan to increase the capital gains tax. “I don’t know what that is. I’m hungover.”