According to a report yesterday on NPR, even the rich guys are worried as the market drops and the frauds surface. One upscale pawnbroker in West Palm Beach is now taking in $500,000 yachts, jewels and huge plasma TV's.
The mood seems less gloomy than just unusually serious. Gas prices are way, way down compared to where they were a few months ago, Analysts are surprised that even as gas gets cheaper, car use continues to be way, way down while use of mass transit is way, way up. That means we're getting serious. As for the Dow and S&P, if you're following the stock market, you know that the market is measuring investor psychology these days to a far greater extent than it reflects the underlying values of the companies we've invested our savings in.
We're aware of the impact every single move by the administration, Fed, and Congress has on the economy and our savings. We've learned enough to worry a little about the long-term impact of steady drops in interest rates. Obviously a bailout of the auto companies would provide a welcome breathing space in January for all of us, not just for the car industry itself. But we seem willing to bite the bullet and let them go. Up to 70% of Americans (depending on who's polling) think the Big Three's management should be allowed to fail. That means putting an enormous number of people out of work, but we're ambivalent about that, too, even if we're supportive of the assembly-line workers. We don't want to put people out of work; we don't want our savings to drop further thanks to huge unemployment numbers.
But -- and this is the odd and maybe even encouraging aspect of our complicated reaction to all this bad news -- many seem to be believe we need to go through this hell in order to get beyond a culture of excess, incompetence, and corruption that's been with us since at least 1980. We are deeply offended by the extent of wrongdoing and may even want an apology more than restitution. We're angry about the "shocking lack of oversight" of bailout money.
That's what I'm wondering as the media take the pulse of different groups around the country. Bottom line? We're a little stunned, we're collecting our wits and sharpening our pencils, and we wouldn't mind getting something more than an apology. While our target may appear to be the corruption and incompetence at the top of the auto industry, it is also the corruption and incompetence at the top of our government. Even Republicans are disgusted. They may be fed up with more than GM, Ford, and Chrysler CEO's.
"People don't like rich people," explained Rep. Ray LaHood, R-Ill., "and these guys are not only rich, but they've screwed up."
And they seem to suffer no consequences.
"They're part of the elite of the country," said Grassley, the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, "and they seem to feel they don't owe anything to anybody."
We think we're owed something. Meanwhile we're hunkering down and applauding any moves to get the excess and hubris out of the system.
(Not everyone is willing to go along with belt-tightening, it seems. Outside of the US, some "elites" are just getting started on the road to unsustainable excess.)