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Five Things You Need to Know: Bailout Keeps the Drunk Staggering


Whiskey on beer; never fear? Or is it, Beer before whiskey; mighty risky?


Kevin Depew's daily Five Things You Need to Know to stay ahead of the pack on Wall Street:

Whiskey on beer; never fear. Or is it, Beer before whiskey; mighty risky. These are the two issues I am weighing here in a little bar off Beekman Street in lower Manhattan. But no one seems to know the answer. Why? Why can't anyone definitively answer these things? It's as if the wisdom of 250 years has suddenly vanished, skulked out of town like a beaten farm cat.

Well, we will soon find out. Even as you read this there is Debate occurring in the United States Senate on this very issue. On the one side, the whiskey on beer and never fear advocates are pressing for a full-on bottle. On the other, the beer before whiskey is mighty risky crowd are hurriedly unplugging their office phones, shutting down all email servers and hunkering down with aides in communication free zones so they can just Think about things for a minute in peace, without those pesky constituents getting in the way.

Indeed, those pesky constituents are quickly drawing up lengthy laundry lists of stalled projects, rising unemployment and empty pork barrel promises just ahead of upcoming elections. According to a New York Times piece (Under Strain, Cities Are Cutting Back Projects), "the sudden loss of credit, one of the ripple effects of the current financial turmoil, is affecting local governments in all parts of the country, rich and poor alike."

On the one hand, this would seem to bode well for public opinion suddenly shifting to support a broad Wall Street Bailout Bill, but every ham-handed public relations effort to re-title the Bailout Bill a "financial rescue package" is met with a volatile combination of outrage laced with disbelief.

"Molly Winter, a longtime supporter of Mark Udall (D-CO),... looked at the shambles of her 401(k) retirement plan, and dashed off an e-mail message to Mr. Udall. It was laced, she said, with some very pointed questions. "I asked him what his plan is now to reinstate the value in my 401(k)," said Ms. Winter, 58, who works for the city and identified herself as a Democrat. "He needs to be accountable and say what his long-term strategy is."
- NYT, Sep. 30, Amid the Wall Street Chaos: Confusion, Anger and Shifting Opinions

The crux of the Bailout Bill's real importance has very little to do with Main Street, although in the Age of Self-Evidence this itself is meaningless. All you have to do is get on TV and say, "This is not a Bailout, it's a Financial Rescue," and that's that. Throw in a pithy line about how "We aren't bailing out Wall Street, we're bailing out ourselves on Main Street," say it with enough force to cause the camera to shudder and shimmy, and now you're cooking with Crisco.

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No positions in stocks mentioned.

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