Finance & Economy

Wall Street: What to Make of This?

Bailout sign

A woman holds up a sign near Wall Street in the Financial District September 22, 2008. Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Getty Images

I'm back in the office after a terrific quick visit to Smith College (having forgotten how college kids dress, I felt slightly inappropriate without more piercings ... and why did I feel the need to wear pantyhose and pumps?).

But now that I am back, I find that I have more questions than I can answer in one sitting:

Where's the pain? Who's feeling it?

Lehman Brothers is going bankrupt and Merrill Lynch has been sold.

The CEOs of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are out.

No golden parachutes for them.

What about the employees, especially those close to retirement?
(Full disclosure: I have a member of the extended family who works for Fannie Mae, but he is so young — so far from retirement, and so far from the front office — it's hard to see the long-term impact on his career. In other words, it ain't his fault!)

Are you buying a house? Trying to sell one? What's it like? A childhood friend of mine is trying to sell her family home so she can use the proceeds to help support her father's long-term care. The sale just fell through, but why? Did the buyer's financing fall through or did he/she just get cold feet looking at the headlines?

Are you a small business owner? If so, are your credit lines in jeopardy?

Are you trying to START a small business, or restart one? And what about rebuilding after the recent hurricanes?

We want to know what's happening on the ground, whether that ground is Wall Street, or the proverbial Main Street. (And we interpret Main street perhaps more expansively than some might.)

What's your story? What are your questions? If there's something you just don't understand about what you're reading and hearing, let us know. Chances are we want to know also.

Finally, in memoriam: Nancy Hicks Maynard. She died over the weekend at the age of 61. She was a major and, in my view, an underappreciated figure who advanced diversity and excellence in the media. We did not have an opportunity to tell you more about her accomplishments today and we hope to do so later in the week.



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Why are we bailing out billionaires who got caught up in their own greed? The underpaid, under employed, over worked, over taxed working class gives 700 billion to wall street who are going to give themselves ginormous bonuses & raises, and if the republicans have their way, tax breaks on their new found wealth. This sickens me to no end. It's a "free" market, that's what got them into this, let them go down the toilet w/ the rest of the feces.

Sent by David Zanke | 7:50 PM | 9-22-2008

I do understand why the government has chosen to bail out the major financial institutions because most of the money made in this country starts from these large companies, especially Wall street. However, i do not understand why the government is not attempting to ease the stress and pressure off of the everyday taxpayer, who the government is obviously planing on taxing in order to pay off the debt of our country, which is now in the trillions. I believe that people who were involved in the financial market did not see this downfall coming, resulting in the government and banks being unprepared for this drastic fall. Not only is the economy effecting the average middle class workers, but it is now effecting the wealthy which is definitely a major problem. Our country simply was not prepared for this.

Sent by Nicholas Boyd | 12:47 AM | 9-23-2008

I have my own measure of how the economy is doing: service at the fast-food joints. When things are bad, folks hold on to those low-end jobs and become reasonably competent in getting the food order right and timely delivery. As conditions improve, those folks are able to find better-paying jobs, and the restaurant has to hire inexperienced help to replace them. Speed and quality suffers.

Yesterday I had listened to your litany of how bad the economy was going, and I stopped to pick up a couple sandwiches to take home. The "fast food" didn't show up for nearly 15 minutes, and they got the order wrong.

And while we think of a 5+% unemployment rate as bad, last year Canada was bragging about how they had gotten unemployment DOWN to 6%!

Sent by True_Liberal | 8:43 AM | 9-23-2008

I heard Ron Paul today and he hit the nail on the head. We are printing money out of thin air. When are the American people going to demand that our monetary system revert back to an asset based system that's more concrete? We have become a nation with an aversion to any discomfort. Sure in the short term there will be some pain, but the long run will be more stable. The fat cats on Wall Street are just looking for a way to save their money. This "King Paulson" gives too much power to a single individual and where are the safeguards to prevent the undo influence of the Federal Reserve (a privately owned banking system that does not belong to the government or the people of the US). I believe that this last trillion will be the straw that breaks the camels back. Most of these fat cats are going to take their balls and go home (Europe, Asia, and South America). They will not reinvest in this economy because the paper is worthless. They're gonna take the money and run...Hoo...hoo...hoo...

Lastly, Bush's go it alone policy of the past six years is having an effect on us. This is shown in the response, or lack thereof, of other nations coming to our aid. They don't have to help us because they own all of our debt (11.3 trillion after the Paulson plan). WAKE UP MEDIA. STOP MOVING THE CHAIRS AROUND AND DIRECT US TO THE LIFEBOATS. JEEZ...

Sent by Wadell | 1:27 PM | 9-23-2008

Where is the money coming from? China, very soon they will owe America and eveybody in it. What kind of future is that for our children?

Sent by Bobbie | 1:35 PM | 9-23-2008

Why aren't we looking at investing that money in things the country needs and in so doing add jobs so that people don't need to foreclose? How about a national infrastructure program? Does the New Deal provide any insights on how to dig ourselves out of this mess?

Sent by Louise | 2:32 PM | 9-23-2008

If the government stuctures this buy out deal like they structured the AIG deal they will make the taxpayers money.
In the AIG deal the U.S. government charges AIG 11 pecent on the 85 millon loan. The goverment pays about 4% on the money it borrows. That is 7% on 85 millon or about 6 millon. AIG has a billon in assets that is billon with a B. The goverment controls 75 to 80 % AIG so they control where the money goes. If the government buys these assets at bargain prices, restructurers them and sales them for a profit then the taxpayer will benefit.

Sent by Sol Skaist | 4:45 PM | 9-23-2008

the feds loaned aig $85 billion (not million) over 2 yrs @ 11%: that's a total interest payment to the feds/usa taxpayers of nearly $19 billion -- or the feds/tp get 80% of aig's assets: which are valued at over $300 billion. that is a steal for the usa taxpayer either way: where is this "sweet heart" bail-out we keep hearing about? it is not: aig was down for the count - & had to take the deal ...priceless!!!

Sent by dirtyblues | 8:50 PM | 9-23-2008

If congress approves this without gov't oversight, regulation, etc., etc., etc., I'm building a guillotine (a la the French Revolution)!

Sent by Michael Phillips | 11:27 PM | 9-23-2008

In your interview with Geoffrey Canada you asked about his political views and how they fit into either a Republican or Democratic platform. I think Mr. Canada has encompassed the feeling of many Americans--why do we pander to parties instead of doing what is right? Is it not possible that the millions of good people in both parties have good ideas and intentions? Can we not cull those ideas and do what it takes? I am not the only one sick of the old party line. I vote Canada for President!

Sent by Karen Fox | 12:15 PM | 9-24-2008

Entering the Stock Market is at your own risk, some people make money and some people lose money; what is it about risk that the US Government, the Congress and the Senate and the Secretary of Treasury do not understand. The 700 billion dollars being ask for to bail out these "special" people, plus there will be more added to that in earmarks, is simply on paper: Paper money printed, because the US still do not have gold bricks to back up the money already in circulation, the US does not have 700 billion as we are already in the hole trillions of dollars and that figure is increasing more each day that the wars are being faught, all of them, and the help extended overseas. And there is paper Banking statements, certificates of account balances that the Wall Street gerus can look at as their final total. And more paper money/personal checks written as the big Wall Street shakers and makers spend it on their multi-million dollar homes, personal jets, expensive vacations, etc. etc., even possibly their call girls/call guys companions :) Why is the US everybody's friend and rescuer in time of need. No one helped me, nor did I ask for help, when I became a divorced mother of two babies way back in the late 60's and again after a failed second marriage in the late 70's; I would never dream of asking anyone, the US or my family and friends to suffeer the consequence of my decisions to marry first someone who left me with two little babies, and then the second husband who was an achoholic and wife beater which made it impossible to continue in that marriage. The children's father never paid a dime child support and could not be made accountable because he left the US and continued living having citizenship of another country. The marriage was my mistake and I lived within my budget, spending only the money I earned which was very low in 1969 through 1987, because in 1987 I landed a US government job and at present I make enough money to support two children, but it is too late because they are all grown up, each one and their spouse have their master's degrees, and they are all doing well, including my grown grandchildren and great granddaughter. My story written her is to say we pay consequences for our decisions! Everyone on Wall Street, the ones expecting the US to bail them out should suffer the consequences of the position they are currently in. They could sell their expensive homes, and their jets, and whatever else they own and I'll bet they could still live a much better life than most of the US citizens live today. People are being forclosed on and they also need to live within their earned income, not go into debt for a more expensive home then they can afford. They have been living big and now it is time to live within their income earned. I will vote for John McCain because I believe he gets it. I know he probably will lay low, not make too many statements as to what the US should do, but I'll bet he would allow all of Wall Street big executives fall, and if it upsets the rest of the US, so be it. The buyers of those homes that they were well aware they could not afford after the interest rates began going up, well let them suffer their consequence and buy a cheaper home or rent an apartment. Whatever it takes to live within their earned income. Whay do we have some great plan that the US is our big brother and should allow them to have the taxpayers bail everyone out of their bad decisions????????

Sent by Pauline Ohadi | 1:42 PM | 9-24-2008

Whats wrong with our politicians? Are they so enamoured by Wall Street that they are willing to sell us and future generations down the river? Do they really buy into the fear mongoring from this administration? This blatant power grab makes me sick. I wonder how much Paulson and Bernanke stand to gain from this bailout they're pushing?

Sent by Sandfo | 2:32 PM | 9-24-2008

How about the US Government becoming the lender to small business and the homeowner? How far will this $700 Billion go for all of our credit needs? We could re-finance with current 30 year fixed rates at 6% or a little below. The new appraisal will reflect the true value today. The extra "bubble" overage $450, home is now worth $325,) would just go away with Wall street going bankrupt and the economy should not miss a step. The investors and 401K owners in the stock market should get out now and cut their losses. The risk is now the Pink Elephant in the middle of the room (they steal your money, dummies).
Think about it! Cut out Wall street altogether and let the chips fall where they may. Warren Buffet will survive. Bill Gates will survive. Companies that are solid and not so Greedy will survive.
We will all go through a "correction" from the Republican financial mess and life will get better. I believe!

Sent by Thelma | 1:31 AM | 9-25-2008