Perhaps it is because this is an election year, but everyone is going around asking "Are we better off than we used to be?" It is not just the baby-kissing politicians. People are being polled to death, The CNN poll. The ABC poll. Gallup. The New York Times. The Wall Street Journal.
The recession makes the questioning more frequent as well. Are people afraid they will lose their jobs? Lose their homes? Their cars?
The reason behind the Paulson bailout was that the credit system, the financial system, the banking system were supposed to get better off.
So far, the results are poor. The market was as low as 8,622 today. After its huge sell-off earlier this month, it closed at 8,451 on October 10. Banks should be better off. They are getting most of Mr. Paulson’s money. But, Citigroup (C) closed at $14.03 on October 10 and trades at under $14 today. It is about the same for JP Morgan (JPM). Some of the other big financials have done a bit better, but not a lot better.
The current argument for the bailout is that the Dow would be at 7,000 now without it. It’s a good theory, but that is all it is. What is more certain is that Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and a lot of people in Congress think there will be a second bailout. It may be aimed more directly at the average citizen and may cost more than $700 billion. Then, there may be a third round, if things keep getting worse.
The nature of a bailout, at least as this one is going along, is that it doesn’t let the problem find a bottom quickly. It has a Chinese water torture aspect to it. And, the question comes up, when things start to improve, was it the bailouts or the natural cycles of the economy that turned the tide.
So far, the bailout has not made anything better. It may have stopped some things from getting worse. So, if enough money is thrown at the economy worse may not get worse.
Douglas A. McIntyre