When I left work yesterday we had a $700 billion bailout in place. When I got home we didn’t. Minutes later reports surfaced that Washington Mutual was seized and the first presidential debate was still up in the air. I sat waiting for reporters to announce that parts of the sky had fallen over D.C. Then I went out for a burger and chocolate milkshake. How else is one to cope?
To illustrate how fast things are changing, between the time I wrote that paragraph and now, I received a phone call telling me that the debate is on. McCain will show up after all. Goodie. That must mean the financial crisis has been solved. Wait a minute …
After listening to the news last night, comforted by the fact that Senator McCain had finally descended upon Washington after bailing on David Letterman to save the economy Wednesday night, I felt I could sit down to an all-American meal with a friend. We went to Pearl’s on Post and had amazing Buffalo meat burgers and talked about the unpredictable black cloud heading our way. Here is a snippet of our conversation last night.
ME: Did you hear? WaMu failed.
D: That’s my bank! Who bought us? What’s going to happen to my money?
ME: You were actually seized. Apparently it’s the biggest bank failure in the history of the world But don’t worry. Your money is safe. You still get to keep your same checking account!
Looking back, I can’t believe we were actually having that conversation. I feel like I am a in movie. A really bad one. Even the headlines in today’s Chronicle appear fake: Bailout Talks Stumble, Lawmakers to resume last-ditch attempt to ease crisis today, Feds seize WaMu bank, force sale. This can’t be real.
The picture on the front page is even better. (Worse?) The photo shows McCain, John Boehner, Nancy Pelosi, Larry Reid, Mitch McConnell, President Bush and Obama at a joint meeting to discuss the financial markets. And some of these people are smiling! McCain looks so smug that his maverick move scored him a seat at the table. Above them is this phrase: Rebellions in both parties prevent agreement in Congress on $700 billion deal – and financial experts are worried.
I’m glad somebody is.
Have reporters told us when we should go to our banks, empty our accounts and flee to a small island in the South Pacific yet? Apparently economists don’t want us to panic. That’s the worst thing we can do. However, how is one to respond when the people negotiating this “deal” are smiling and there are reports that Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson was actually on his hands and knees begging Pelosi not to withdraw her party’s support?
People in Washington are literally begging for this thing to pass. But don’t worry. Stay calm. So my advice: do your part to stimulate the economy. Buy a burger, sweet potato fries, and milkshake. Because that is about the only thing that won’t leave a sour taste in your mouth at this point.