What I built — with government help
posted at 8/18/2012 4:00 PM EDT
I was born in Detroit in 1961 and grew up in a working-class neighborhood just south of the famed 8 Mile Road. My block was stable; most of the fathers of my friends worked in the auto plants. In 1968 my parents divorced and my mother, armed with a high school degree, was thrust into the workforce. We were taken out of our Catholic school and moved into public schools. Dinner was often breakfast foods, which was fine with us. Mom is still a great cook.
Today, I own a small business, an asset management firm with $300 million in assets. Last year we launched the Roumell Opportunistic Value Fund (RAMSX) and hired three more people. We’re growing and creating jobs. I suppose I could pound my chest and take credit for my journey from Detroit to Chevy Chase, from working class to professional. I could say I built it myself. But this wouldn’t be true.
In 1967, Detroit’s riots came to our neighborhood and our dry cleaner was burned to the ground. The National Guard was called in, and peace was quickly restored. Mom found a good job with a trucking company and was able to adequately care for our family on a union wage fought for by the Teamsters in an environment supported by the National Labor Relations Act of 1935.
I went to college with the help of Pell Grants and government loans. Twenty years ago I met Claiborne Pell and was able to thank the former Democratic senator from Rhode Island for introducing the Higher Education Act of 1965, which allowed me to go to college.
My business has been made possible by the Investment Company Act of 1940 and the Investment Advisers Act of 1940. These laws created practices and transparency that enabled a financial services industry to emerge. After the stock market collapse of 1929, the public rightly did not trust Wall Street and needed assurances that the industry would operate within a reliable set of rules.
Nothing in terms of “regulations” or “business uncertainty” has stopped me from investing capital for a return. In fact, the stability that government involvement brought to the capital markets over the past three years, evidenced by a 100 percent increase in the Standard and Poor’s 500-stock index since March 2009, probably enabled my business to survive. The federal government’s back-stopping of money market funds in the fall of 2008 ended, effectively in one day, what was turning into a 1930s-style bank run.