Why is it so difficult to understand the big banking bailout and the financial situation that makes it "necessary?" Because it's a different reality from one mere mortals live in.
American Public Media's Marketplace took a look at Bank of America's sudden fall from grace. It was one of the survivors of last fall's big meltdown (making a ton of money), so much so that it gobbled up on of the slower fish -- Merrill Lynch.
On Thursday, the banking giant, which practically had to be forced to take some bailout cash at gunpoint last year, reported its earnings for the third quarter of 2007:
The banking giant, which moved up its quarterly report from Tuesday, reported a net loss of $1.79 billion, or 48 cents a share, compared with year-earlier net income of $268 million, or 5 cents a share. Revenue increased 19% to $15.98 billion. Analysts' estimates were for per-share earnings of eight cents on revenue of $20.71 billion, according to a poll by Thomson Reuters.
Take your current salary. Increase it by 20 percent. Are you better off or worse off now, financially? If you're better off, you're not Bank of America.
You're also not likely to get an amount more than your total income for a second time in three months in the form of a bailout and still have financial experts tell you that may not be enough.
Paul Douglas and I clearly don't run with the same crowd. In his blurb in the Star Tribune today, Minnesota's go-to guy for weather notes that no matter how cold it gets, we don't care:
Thursday was, in all probability, the coldest day of the year with a low of -21 and a "high" of -6 F. Here's a virtual high five - you just survived/endured the coldest day in 5 years. You made it. Think about that - most schools were open, people went to work, mail got delivered, people shopped, worked out, went about their business. Anywhere else in America they would have declared martial law and activated the National Guard. Here in Minnesota we just shrug our (frostbitten) shoulders and mutter "no big deal."
You weenies in Michigan or Massachusetts simply wouldn't understand the depth of our disinterest in how cold it is.
Coincidentally, the top story on the Star Tribune's Web site this morning was about the weather:
Crushingly cold temperatures and dangerous wind chills kept their grip on Minnesota making roads slippery and forcing some schools to close.
The temperature in the Twin Cities at 6 a.m. was 21 below zero, but that was almost balmy compared to other spots in the state.
Not that anyone cares.
James Lileks, the funniest columnist in the Twin Cities (in the category of those columnists who are trying to be) appears more rooted in reality, possibly because he's frozen to it:
If you're lucky, your car's heater can be set on "Blast From the Gaping Maw of Hell" and it thaws your orbs by the time you hit the highway. But I pass people whose teeth are chattering like wind-up gag dentures, and it's obvious their heaters are incapable of emitting anything warmer than penguin flatulence.
These people need an advocacy group. These people need a spokesperson. Someone who will stand up and say what millions of us believe: THIS IS RIDICULOUS. I'M TIRED OF PRETENDING IT MAKES US BETTER PEOPLE.
By the way, some of us are going skating over at the Landmark Center outdoor rink at noon again. See you there? Or are you from Nebraska or something?
Update 2:18 p.m. - Courtesy of Kevin Hendricks
You have to like the pluckiness of MPR's Tom Weber who didn't need a coat.(19 Comments)
Via Twitter, The Fix's Chris Ciillizza of the Washington Post asks an intriguing question:
Does it worry anyone else that a massive plane can be brought down by a flock of birds?
Any minute now, someone will propose that all airplanes have an additional engine and be wrapped in rabbit wire. Sometimes you just can't plan for the little stuff that creates big problems. And that got me thinking about some of the little things:
It's always something -- often something small. Feel free to add to the list.(15 Comments)
James Meincke, 18, of Hudson, Wisconsin was all set to go to college at the University of Wisconsin last September until he met the Barack Obama campaign. This week, however, he moved into the dorms in Madison where the new semester starts next week, but he'll have to skip class. He's going to the inauguration.
Meincke, a 2008 graduate of Hudson High, started working as a volunteer in the Obama campaign in Eau Claire last summer, but just before he was to head back home when things were wrapping up, the campaign offered him a job as a field organizer in a Republican-leaning area of Wisconsin.
It's a grueling job of long hours and low pay. But it's nowhere near as hard as telling your mom and dad you're not going to college, at least not right away.
"My mom kind of thought, 'Oh this sounds like a great experience,' and my dad, he started naming off all the negative consequences: 'You're going to have to buy a car now,' 'You're not going to get the classes you want when you go back to school,' 'You're going to be behind everybody.' I made a list of all the pros and cons and I figured (missing) one semester isn't going to be too bad," he says.
The Obama campaign sent him to two counties north of Green Bay. "It's all about voter contact. We're the people talking to volunteers and training volunteers. Anyone who would volunteer would come through us," he says. "It's a lot less glamorous than the name field organizer suggests. We'd work about 100 hours a week and there were times I thought, 'Oh man, what did I get myself into?'"
He says he didn't know until he worked in the field how important volunteers can be. His two counties voted Obama by 8 points each.
Now comes Meincke's reward. A ticket to the inauguration next week.
"I was a little hesitant about going because I started college late and everyone had been there for awhile, and then we got information that we received tickets to the inauguration and the inaugural ball and now I think it'll be a fun time. But I was worried about missing two days of school," he said.
This time the roles have been reversed. James was hesitant to go; his parents not only wanted him to go, they wished they could go, too.
He's staying with a friend at Georgetown University who he met in Green Bay. He's going to the Youth Inaugural Ball on Tuesday after inauguration. Then there's a "staff ball" for all the Obama workers, where he hopes to meet the new president.
He'll send us pictures.