End of a punishing week on Wall Street

October 13, 2008 1:20:58 PM PDT
We are well aware that what we say over-the-air carries enormous weight, and so we do not use words like "crash" or "meltdown" or "panic" lightly and without much thought.

But it's hard to argue that what has happened this week on Wall Street is anything short of a crash and meltdown. And it's equally hard to argue that what investors -- especially small investors - are feeling these days is nothing short of panic.

The dramatic swing in the final hour of trading today notwithstanding -- the market was down as much as 700 points today, then up a couple hundred points, and then closed down about 100 -- The Crash of '08 is likely how this week will be remembered - that is if the market doesn't continue to plummet next week. The problem is credit - the markets have virtually dried up. And because we are a society, indeed a world, that traffics in credit and depends wholly on borrowing, this is more than a big problem. It is a fundamental flaw.

Do we as a government or taxpayers lend the banks money? Do we buy their under-performing portfolios? Do we re-capitalize them? The answers, clearly, are not easily coming.

And it's not just a U.S. problem, although this country is driving the ship. Markets worldwide are reeling, thanks in no small part to the globalization of commerce and finance. It figures not to be a short-term situation. And the bitter irony is that, officially, we're still not in a recession - which by definition is two consecutive quarters of negative GDP growth. Maybe it's time to redefine the definition?

What's that old canard? When your neighbor loses her job, that's a recession. When you lose your job, that's a depression.

Something else to think about: John McCain's proposal today not to force people to begin selling off their retirement accounts when they reach 70 and one-half. Why mandate these sales in a down market?

Tonight at 11, we'll have the latest on the markets from today, and some of things you could, or should, be doing with your money.

There's another story that, if the markets weren't crashing, would be leading our newscasts. The Supreme Court in Connecticut today ruled that same-sex couples have the right to marry. This makes Connecticut the third state in the country to legalize so-called gay marriages.

Massachusetts and California are the other states -- although next month Californians will vote on a same-sex marriage ballot proposition.

We'll have reaction to the Connecticut ruling, tonight at 11.

We'll also have the latest on the toll hike approved today for the New Jersey Turnpike and the Garden State Parkway. The first boost comes in December, the next in four years.

A full-length drive of the Turnpike, now at $6.45 in tolls, will more than double to $13.75 by 2012.

Perhaps because of the rising cost of driving, comes this bit of news from Amtrak: ridership for the fiscal year ended Sept. 30 set a record, with nearly 29 million passengers.

And Tappy Phillips has the story tonight of a local man who bought a new Honda and was promised one of those gas vouchers -- a $1,500 gas voucher.

And he didn't get one - so he started his engine and called 7 On Your Side for help.

We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Lee Goldberg's stunning weekend AccuWeather forecast, and Scott Clark with the night's sports. I hope you can join Liz Cho and me, tonight at 11, right after 20/20.

BILL RITTER


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