I don’t know about the rest of you folks, but I’ve spent this week glued to the television as the government and Wall Street try to avoid a financial disaster. You’d think I had something to lose.
What I mean is, my only retirement capital is Social Security and a savings account of considerably less than the $100,000 protected by the FDIC. I suppose both of those could melt down, but I doubt any of us would see it. We’d all be bent over, kissing our butts goodbye.
As the week on Wall Street came to an end, the Dow Jones average had two straight days of triple-digit gains totaling more than 300 points as investors apparently were ignoring all the bad economic news and instead were focused on the negotiations in Washington on a $700 billion bailout proposal.
Just like me.
Meanwhile, in Washington, a Democratic-led series of amendments to President Bush’s bailout plan were gaining steam when they ran into an oncoming locomotive driven by House Republicans and everything went off the rails. Today, negotiators were still trying to clean up the wreck.
I wrote earlier this year about my fascination for things that don’t involve me, a penchant I indulged during four decades as a newspaper reporter and editor. In that Jan. 10 blog entry, I confessed that my two favorite daytime TV programs were a New York City sports talk show and the daily stock ticker on CNBC, even though I seldom watch televised sports other than Yankees games and I own no stocks.
I described it as rubbernecking — what other drivers do when passing a traffic accident — and that’s the same feeling I have now as I watch the bailout debacle. Yes, I know the consequences of an economic meltdown ultimately could affect me, but I grew up in circumstances where poverty never was too far away, and I’ve returned in retirement to a similar life of frugality.
In fact, the worst financial disaster facing me — and many other retirees — was averted four years ago when, shortly after Bush’s reelection, Congress and most of the American public rejected his last serious attempt to privatize Social Security. Oddly enough, the amount of Social Security funds his plan would have diverted into Wall Street was — guess what? — about $700 billion.
I hate to think about how much of that would have been lost as the stock market goes into the tank. We might be talking about a bailout plan not of $700 billion but of $1.4 trillion. Either way, it’s a lot of zeros.
All I can say is that frugality isn’t such a bad life. And we’ll all have plenty of company. And hopefully, that will include some Wall Street tycoons.
This week’s new offerings in Works:
• Chapters 36 and 37 of R.J. Keller’s novel Waiting for Spring:
Chapter 36: Tess and Brian attend church for the first communion of their friends’ daughter, a joyful event that makes even more burdensome the death of Brian’s sister Rachel. The sorrow that Tess feels is made worse by a dread that something is changing in Brian, and it is: He wants to split up. And so they do.
Chapter 37: Tess moves out of the house she has been sharing with Brian. As she tries to settle into her new apartment, a bottle of Rachel’s shampoo sets off a chain of events that takes Tess on a trip to another town and a quick liaison with a stranger in a bar, an experience that brings up a lot of bad memories from her past.
• Chapters 12 and 13 of Ann M. Pino’s novel Steal Tomorrow:
Chapter 12: Cassie and her fellow Regents gang members pore over information on a recovered research computer, hoping for clues to cure a lethal virus that has killed the world’s adults. The remedy may involve human growth hormone, a substance that no longer can be synthesized and may explain why a rival gang is kidnapping children.
Chapter 13: A trip to an ally to exchange scientific equipment for medical supplies ends in tragedy when Cassie’s friend Leila is killed in a street battle with a gang of religious zealots called the Christian Soldiers. The Regents decide to mount an attack to wipe out the zealots, but Cassie is barred from taking part in the attack and avenging her friend’s death.
– Sid Leavitt