There were two disasters in the past few days that produced images that both shocked and saddened. In both, a cataclysmic event swept down on people, washing away their homes, destroying their property, changing their lives forever. One was an act of God. The other was of our own creation.
The first was Hurricane Ike, of course. You have to wonder why, after this kind of thing has happened so many times, there are still folks who stay put, cling to their homes, brave the elements, and are punished for it. It didn't turn out as badly as the weather people said it would. The governor was relieved. But still. Your heart went out to the people of Galveston and Houston and all the other places once again dealt a bad hand by the inescapable elements.
Contrariwise, this morning we awake to find that an equally terrible storm has swept away 25,000 jobs at Lehman Brothers (LEH) and will certainly threaten the lives and homes of 60,000 others at Merrill Lynch (MER). Our feelings are somewhat more mixed here, although certainly not for the people.
This hurricane was man made, fashioned out of stupidity, cupidity, and hubris. As far as this storm goes, it is possible that we are still in the middle of it, in the eye, maybe. WaMu (WM), AIG (AIG), and others are reportedly in the path of it. And nobody is relieved. Our hearts go out to the people of all these organizations, dealt a bad hand by the economic climate. But there's something else there, too, amid the sorrow and the pity, for these organizations brought this down on themselves, and our feelings are different about that kind of thing. Lehman was leveraged, I believe, 30-1.
So on our grief, in our confusion and, yes, fear, there just might be a very small fire in our bellies that demands some kind of retribution, not only on Wall Street, which is after all just its demented and greedy self, but in Washington as well.
Remind me. It seems unclear all of a sudden. Who's been running the place recently?