I have been urged to keep covering the financial hurricane that has swept through Wall Street and is continuing today. I kept up with the latest fast moving developments yesterday: it was both thrilling, and exhausting.
At this writing the DJIA is down over 340 points; the NASDAQ is off by over 59 points, and the S&P is lower by over 43 points.
It's a fluid situation, what more can I say? I'll leave the rest up to the experts, but there are some general lessons worth remembering here. I'll focus on those.
1. The crisis didn't happen overnight: this storm was long in coming; over the weekend, even, there were plenty of signs. But the media wasn't reporting on any of them. Instead we focused on something we have no control over, a hurricane. I mean no disrespect to the good people of Texas and the obvious natural tragedy that occurred there. But just as the financial system was out of whack, so was the media that is supposed to be keeping the American public informed. We can't control hurricanes, but we can, to some extent, control our economy and financial system. A hurricane is caused by mother nature, the financial devastation was caused by human beings.
2. You will be affected: there's just no way around it. You may not own stock in Lehman Bothers, you may not have an insurance policy with AIG, or a retirement account with Merrill Lynch, but that doesn't mean that every individual American alive at this time won't be affected in one way or another by the current financial mess. You will. Whether in dealing with the outfall of unemployment, credit card rates, taxes, availability of credit, or retirement savings, the current crisis affects us all and don't let anyone tell you differently.
3. Hold institutions to account: America is successful to the extent that we have a functioning economy, political organization, and society. Benjamin Franklin told the country that they gave them a republic, if you can keep it. The same applies today. Why did the media not report on the extraordinary Sunday trading session yesterday when it was happening in real time? It's not like they couldn't. Where have this nation's financial regulators been and what are they doing? Why weren't the companies that have failed brought on the carpet sooner? Why do we reward failing CEOs with millions and millions of dollars in golden parachutes? (It's a bit like being a meteorologist: wouldn't you love a job where you could be wrong 75% or more of the time and not get fired!) Regardless of what political party you're from, where were your party's political leaders and political candidates for the past, oh, let's say five or ten years? Hold these people to account! Our society works only to the extent that our institutions are functioning and accountable, and when Washington, D.C. and Wall Street are answerable and accountable to the people. Demand accountability!
4. Don't let the experts tell you to "Be Strong" or "Don't Worry": Since you're reading this you're a breathing, functioning, living, and, hopefully, thinking human being. The same old tired experts who today are telling you not to worry...where were they in terms of warning you yesterday? Are they going to pay your mortgage, send your kids to college, find you a new job? Don't let experts condescend and talk down to you. Be willing to listen and understand, but don't accept the kind of elitism that takes you for granted or lowers expectations.
5. Get informed: The best way to prepare for the current, ongoing crisis and future developments is by being prepared. I was a scout, were you?