Thursday, November 20, 2008


Hey, that bailout thing's working out well, isn't it?

I'm not so naive as to think that the promise of $700 billion would've fixed anything by now -- I mean, it's been less than two months since Congress picked our pockets. What I might've expected, however, would be a hint that Wall Street, at least, has more confidence in Sec. Paulson's misbegotten plan than The People do.

It doesn't -- and why would anyone be optimistic when there's been no accounting and no oversight? Investors, both individual and institutional, are yanking their money out of the markets despite devastating losses.

Crippled GM, begging for a bailout that hasn't come, closed today at $2.88, off more than 90% from its 12-month high. Citigroup, which got bailout money and promptly spent most of it on acquisitions, ended the day at $4.71, nearly 87% lower than its own one-year high. The pattern repeats throughout corporate America.

And then there's the Dow, which shed more than 400 points again today to close at 7,552 -- if you're keeping score at home, that's a wholesale hemorrhaging of 48% of those companies' market capital in just over 13 months. Worse, and probably more significant, the S&P 500 has sunk to its lowest level since 1997.

It's grotesque. There's nothing that you or I can do to mask (or escape) the ugliness, and I'm absolutely sure that the worst is yet to come.

But why should you believe what this blogger says? I don't have a degree in economics or a seven-figure portfolio. Then again, I don't have a political agenda, either. I simply have the brains I was born with and the eyes to see what's happening around me -- not just in the markets, but in my own community.

We need to stop being blind and stupid to economic reality. Last week a business owner assured me that his small enterprise was doing just fine -- and, of course, that all this doom-and-gloom stuff was overblown. He was unaware, somehow, that the county in which he does business has one of the highest unemployment rates in Ohio, and that his Pollyanna chickens soon will be coming home to roost.

It's not how I'm doing or how you're doing -- it's how we're doing. Big picture, dammit.

Optimism about the ability of Obama-Biden and a Democratic Congress to "fix" the economy (read, "pass more bailouts") is just plain silly. We know that our economy is fundamentally broken. We also know that the incoming administration will throw entitlements and taxpayers' money at the problem -- which itself is a broken strategy, because it only pawns off the burden onto our children.

Face it, the Recession Express left the station months ago, and the whistle we hear in the distance is the Depression Local. All aboard.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to drive down to my favorite gas station and pay $1.71 a gallon for whatever it takes to fill my truck. Hell, maybe I'll get a wild hair and scoot across town, where the going rate is $1.58.

Look, when most of what I see is ugly and broken, I'll take my simple pleasures wherever I can find them.