Thursday, September 18, 2008

market meltdown

This photo is from Nikki Finke's Deadline Hollywood. I know, it's a cow not a bull, but let's just pretend, eh? Anyway, it's a good representation of how I feel about money today.

Some perspective: from 1929 to 1932, the DJIA lost 89%. In the crash of 1987, in one very scary week, it lost 31%. When the dotcom bubble burst, the NASDAQ fell from 5,048 to 1,114 about two years later. By comparison, this year the DJIA is down about 25%. So far.

But what makes it all so stunning (and not in a good way) is the cracking of the bases of the global economy. AIG, the biggest insurer in the world--the people who insure bonds, among other things--just got eaten by the US Government. The government had to do it--if AIG had gone down the global market would have been a bloodbath--and they bargained hard, getting a pretty good deal for taxpayers like you and me who now have an 80% controlling interest in the company (and are charging a swingeing 8.5% over LIBOR--a punitive rate, which I'm not saying isn't deserved...) but wow, the US government now owns a lot of what, two years ago, were thriving independent beasts of the finance world. And that means government will probably start regulating the hell out of everything, which means that growth will be much slower during the next recovery, which means we all suffer. (We would have suffered a lot more without the bailouts, no question. And of course this mess wouldn't exist without deregulation in the first place.)

What does all this mean? I don't know, exactly. For once I'm having a really hard time wrapping my head around it. I like money. I like playing with it; I don't have issues around it. For me, money is not an emotional marker, it's more like a game chip. Yes, when we lost 80% of everything six years ago I felt like throwing up but, hey, I told myself, it's just money; we can always earn more. But this morning I woke up and found I suddenly didn't understand what all this means. I find myself unmoored. Kelley and I have lost 25% of our pension fund; we've lost the ability to get loans (as has most of the world); our odds of getting a last-resort job have tanked; the likelihood of publishers and studios paying us a zillion dollars for our brain work just evaporated; our house is worth a lot less. Yet we still have money in the bank (the bank, though, is for sale), the trees are still shivering in the breeze, the squirrels are still industriously collecting nuts for autumn. So in the ultimate scheme of things, does this mean much? Probably not, but I don't actually know. That's what bothers me.

So here's my question: how do you feel about what's been going on in Finance World? Does it bother you? Do you shrug and think, hey those bastards deserve all the pain? Are you aware, or not, of what's going on? Does it impinge on your daily life? Do you feel any different today than this time last week?

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