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Five Things You Need to Know: Caught Between a Wall and a Main Street


Mr. Jones shot by both sides.


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

Shot by Both Sides, It's Tough Being Mr. Jones

Between the news of whatever company is going to be bailed out next and the arrest of Wall Street Superstar, "Mr. 12%," Bernard Madoff, Mr. Jones had every right to walk out of his favorite Main Street diner this morning after having enjoyed his typical weekday breakfast, feeling perhaps as if he was the only one left out of the secret understanding that seems to pervade all things financial these days.

Walking to his office, he caught his reflection in a storefront window and paused. Haven't I done everything right? he asked himself. It was a legitimate question. But the reflection in the glass looking back at him made him feel embarrassed, small and even a little dumb.

The answer seemed to be both yes and no. After all, his small town was a long, long way from Wall Street. He stepped back from the storefront and leaned his elbow on a parking meter.

"New York. What a joke," he thought, "and we're the punchline. Who are those people?" he wondered. "Somebody somewhere must be making money on all of this, but who? How do you get to be one of "those" people?"

He choked the thought off almost as soon as it entered his mind. He had chosen this; this small town, this life - choices just as legitimate as any made by the bankers and the salesmen wearing suits in Manhattan.

Sure, he knew the rules; the closer you are to the money, the higher up on the food chain, the easier the meals are. He also knew that for the rest of America the rules worked much the same, only on a smaller scale. He had chosen to live on a smaller scale, to carve out his own place, a humble place, he thought. But now, the rules seemed to be changing, the goal posts always shifting.

Shot by both sides. He laughed to himself at the concept. "It's true," he thought. "All this time I've been playing hard, like I'm really a part of the team, but I'm not. I'm just one of the balls."

Shot by Both Sides

Yes, the writing is on the wall. All that's left really is to figure out how much more humiliation Mr. Jones will be willing to accept and what indignity will finally be the last straw.

Will it be General Motors (GM) and the unmitigated gall it takes for politicians to place the safety of a million or so auto industry-related jobs above the million-and-a-half other jobs that have already been lost this year?

Or what about a U.S. Governor who auctions off a United States Senate seat to the highest bidder?

Will it be a "giant ponzi scheme" that ran so deep, and for so long, as to be able to perpetrate a $50 billion dollar securities fraud that could possibly leave people who thought they were rich on Wednesday penniless by Friday?

Or will it be something "smaller," like the high-profile New York City law firm principal who was arrested in Canada last week and is accused of cheating hedge funds and investors out of a mere $380 million?

Who's to say?

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No positions in stocks mentioned.

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