New York (API) Symbolizing the hope of Americans everywhere, local New York vagrant Arthur P. Heidelman was seen Thursday afternoon wearing a "Dow 10,000" hat while walking down New York's Bowery area, a signal, say economists, of inevitable economic rebound. "I found this in a trash bin about two years ago," said Heidelman of his hat. "Frankly, I don't know what it means, but it sure does keep my ears warm."
Heidelman, who was laid off from a job as a bricklayer 12 years ago, has spent most of his career in the last decade panhandling, cage fishing for blue crab at Battery Park, and leaning drunk against the bollards on the promenade walk when the local park police aren't rousting him. He is also wanted for a few misdemeanors and is a deadbeat dad who hasn't seen his family since around 1996.
"This just goes to show that America is on an upward trend and that confidence has been restored to the markets," said former equities analyst Henry Blodget, now a finance blogger and editor-in-chief of the Silicon Alley Insider. "People have worried that consumers, who are in saving mode, will not be doing the kind of spending that will lead the economy out of recession. But the American economy is the comeback kid. All you need to know about it you can see right there on Arthur Heidelman's hat, god bless him."
Heidelman spends most of his days eating out of a dumpster in front of Taco Bell and does most of his bathing in a Central Park bathroom sink near the Bethesda Fountain. He often stays at the Bowery Mission. Sometimes, for loose change, he shows people where the movies Ransom and The Spanish Prisoner were filmed. He also is a jokester and asks many a passerby, "Won't you please contribute to the United Negro Pizza Fund?"
The Dow Jones first made its trip above 10,000 in March of 1999, and at the time, New York Stock Exchange chairman Dick Grasso and city mayor Rudy Giuliani let loose a hail of the famous, commemorative blue hats down onto the floor of the stock exchange for awaiting traders. Since then, however, the Dow has sped toward the 10,000 in both up and down directions several times, and traders now pull out the hats mostly from mordant humor rather than enthusiasm.
That irony is lost on Heidelman, however, who says the hat is very nice and never fails to excite the envy of fellow homeless people.
"Somebody tried to take it from me once and I stabbed him in the hand with a corkscrew," he said.
Even some famous Wall Street skeptics like James Grant of Grant's Interest Rate Observer says that many indicators, including a slowing of the rate of decline in house prices, suggests turnaround.
"We can't tell from just every indicator that a recovery is coming," Grant said, "The rallying in equities and corporate bonds, for instance, is just one. But mostly I'm moved by the unmistakable sign I get when I see regular people like Arthur Heidelman walking down the street wearing a Dow 10,000 hat--or sleeping in it or maybe using it to swat at imaginary flies he's seeing when he's got the DTs. In any case, there's a new mood in this country, and Arthur's got me feeling that much more bullish on the economy. ... You know, somebody really ought to give him a blanket."
Grant acknowledges that unemployment is still at its highest in two and a half decades and that home foreclosures are still high as well, but he claims that the market is undervalued and the enthusiasm of everyday people is still clear. The bounty experienced by Wall Street banks and investors will soon be shared by all, he said.
"Employment is a lagging indicator," said Grant. "Most people will need to grit their teeth and tough it out for a couple of years. I'd like to say to them, 'If a toothless vagrant who doesn't even answer the census can make it, so can you!'"
When asked if he would like to go back to work and take part in the rebound, Heidelman said that would be nice but also suggested that wage deflation had made it difficult for most people at his level of the economy to become active participants in wealth generation.
"You gonna give me $16,000 a year, m***er f**ker?" he asked. "If not, I like it fine right here in the park." He then said he wouldn't work anywhere that there were bats, birds or mice and then he nodded off, grumbling incoherently.