That seems to be the mantra on the financial news these days as the stock market does its herky-jerky dance of 300 points down here and a bounce back there. Lou Dobbs‘ Moneyline says investors are switching to real estate (my suggestion over a year ago, by the way), and a panicked family tells CNN that they‘ve lost $800,000 of their savings in what‘s become “a very frightening situation.“
Few of us have the luxury of $800,000 to lose; in fact, only an estimated 1-in-20 investors actually “play the market.“ These are apparently the people who buy low on Monday after the stock market slides off a cliff on the preceding Friday... and thus the sea-sick sense of up-and-down.
But still, enough of us have 401K plans, IRAs and mutual funds in this great age of Social Insecurity and the past year has gone down like a long streak of gambler‘s bad luck. Eighty million baby boomers are looking at retirement with the promises of the ‘90s evaporating like the fizz in Gordon “greed is good“ Gekko‘s martini. I‘ve given up opening the periodic statements in the mail describing the downward spiral of my own retirement plan -- it‘s down something like 30% and approaching the realm of fantasy. I just don‘t want to know anymore.
The stock market fell a similar percentage on Black Thursday, Oct. 17, 1987, which was the biggest one-day loss in the history of the 106-year-old Dow Jones Industrial Average. Is it any comfort that millions of people have at least temporarily lost much of their retirement income over the space of a year rather than a single day? Perhaps that depends on your age and how much you had in the kitty.
At any rate, the stock market rebounded to its former level within a year-and-a-half after ‘87, and as the Bard said, “all‘s well that end‘s well.“
So come on, lucky dice...
It will be interesting to see if President Bush & Co. weather the storm if the market keeps falling along with the nest eggs of America‘s retirees. Like sailors chained to dead men, the Bush administration is ineluctably bound to the corporate pirates of Enron, Halliburton, Arthur Andersen, et. al., who sparked this crisis in confidence.
Consider, for instance, Black Friday on Sept. 24, 1869, when a small group of unscrupulous investors, including Jay Gould and James Fisk, attempted to use their leverage in the administration of President Ulysses S. Grant to corner the nation‘s gold market. Their tinkering led to the financial ruin of thousands of Americans, and the resulting wrath made Grant a one-termer.
But that was a few thousand Americans. We‘re talking about millions, tens of millions.
For what it‘s worth, my wrath is up. How ‘bout yours?
Finally, here‘s a funny notion from a letter writer in the Sonoma County Independent: This would be a great time to ditch Social Security and pour all of our payroll deductions into the stock market. The fresh infusions of hot cash would revive the market, and every citizen‘s ownership of Corporate America would fulfill a Marxist dream of the masses owning the means of production. Thus, we stockholders could demand sweeping reforms of corporate criminality or heads would roll.
Didn‘t think so.