onion video money hole 200The Onion’s video about America’s money hole (the place where we like to throw all our money, sometimes adding gasoline and a light) is funny, but dated.

Or is it?

This week on Slate’s The Big Money, Heidi Moore argues that the next entity the government needs to bail out is the government itself.

fed-financial-crsisi-timeline-150A certain cinematic truant once said, “Life moves pretty fast. You don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Or, to put it in the language of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, “Over the past two years, and particularly since the intensification of the global financial crisis in the fall of 2008, new information has been released at a stunning pace.”

If you, like us, have been longing for a roadmap to the downturn, something that lays out what’s happened at recession speed, check out the global financial crisis timelines from the Fed. You can reminisce with your friends about the day the Asset-Backed Commercial Paper Money Market Fund Liquidity Facility was born, get teary over that time the Office of Thrift Supervision shut down WaMu. Ah, those were the days…

warp-speed-light-speed-150Several months ago, when every Monday seemed to bring news of a new economic catastrophe, we started throwing around the idea of “recession speed.” It’s the accelerated pace at which things—usually bad—happen during the downturn. Sometimes it seems like we’re living some economic offshoot of the theory of relativity.

One week there is “no liquidity crisis” at Bear Stearns; the next, the bank collapses. In the morning you accept a new job; in the afternoon, the company folds. One day your investments are doing great; the next the world learns that Bernie Madoff is a crook. In two weeks last October, the Dow dropped 17 percent, wiping out big chunks of retirement accounts. As Mark Cuban recently blogged, this is the year of WTF.

But recession speed isn’t necessarily a bad thing…

money-pile-dollars-150So extravagant pay packages are a thing of the past? The political rhetoric suggests so. Last week the Obama administration started to work on curbing “excesses” on Wall Street. The compensation structure for all financial services firms—even those who didn’t accept TARP money—is under review. The private sector is also rethinking pay big time. Earlier this year, JP Morgan C.E.O. Jamie Dimon told employees at a town hall meeting that many should be prepared to have zero bonus payments in 2009. “Get over it,” was his message.

So you can imagine my surprise when I heard the other day that a trader had been offered several million dollars to jump to another bank guaranteed for a couple of years. That’s right: several million dollars. At first I thought I’d heard wrong. It’s 2009, not 2006…

goodandevil150“So do you wear a white hat or a black hat?” my lady asked me on our very first date at a hipster Williamsburg restaurant. I summoned my inner Nigel Tufnel and responded: “None more black.”

I remember thinking, What kind of question is that? Do you really think I am a bad guy because I work on Wall Street? If I hadn’t found her so otherwise interesting and attractive, I would have taken serious offense. I told her that I hoped my job didn’t define me. I’m also a dad with three kids. (F.Y.I. to all the divorcées out there: talking about the kids is not great first date rap.) I struggle with playing guitar. I am a good skier. And when I get my cook on I can make a mean Mexican meal (and a margarita not for the faint of heart.) In my job, I in fact considered my hat to be white. I was part of system, I reasoned, that helped finance developing countries and raise living standards. My job as a trader was to reward governments for following the best economic policies for their people and to punish those that didn’t.

That was in November 2006, when I was riding high in the midst of the most successful year I’d ever had professionally. Today there is a black cloud over Wall Street. I wonder how our first date would have gone if we had met in March 2009…

blogger-layoff-chart-250Why didn’t we think of the hilarious chart over at On notebook paper, it “graphs” the number of blogs against the unemployment rate. Jobs down = blogs up.

We don’t have numbers to back that up—as wordyard explains today, it’s hard enough to tell how many people are professionally blogging—but it at least feels true. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of new websites about budget living, job hunting, economic policy, layoffs and more. A Google search for “ unemployed and blog” turns up more than 3 million results. “Laid off and blog” gives you more than 7 million.

So how to distinguish the smart, funny and useful from blather about not having a job? Last week, we compiled a list of the Top Ten Blogs for Surviving the Recession for our friends at Here’s an expanded version of that list to bookmark if you want to understand the latest news, cut your spending, or get a damn laugh.

Recession Briefing 4.9

by Laura Rich on April 9, 2009 in News

dreamstime_2186141Initial jobless claims fell last week after hitting a record high the week before, but the overall jobless figure remained high. (CNN Money)

U.S. may role out a version of Depression-era “Liberty Bonds” — in this case, “bailout bonds” that consumers can buy to help boost the financial system. (New York Times)

Notes from the Federal Reserve’s mid-March meeting reveal that regional presidents see no glint of recovery, reversing a sunnier view of two months earlier. (AFP)

london-big-ben-150The G20 summit is being brought to us by the number $1 trillion. And the numbers $75 million and $150 billion. Not to be left out is the number one—or one dollar, to be more precise.

The amounts and tallies of the 20 countries’ debts and stimulus packages to be discussed at the summit tomorrow in London add to the parade of numbers that has characterized the global crisis…

Alice in Numberland

by Mariem Horchani on March 27, 2009 in Culture

alice-wonderland-150There are days when the downturn feels curiously like we’re Alice in Wonderland, falling down the rabbit hole, with numbers swirling dizzyingly about.

From the largest Ponzi scheme ever, to taxpayer bailouts of countless irresponsible companies, to mind-boggling bank losses, to ludicrous bonuses paid to undeserving executives, we are barraged by figure after staggering figure. What’s more, there is no end in sight to this numerical syndrome…

Each week, “Joe the Trader” chronicles his experiences with life after Wall Street.

taking back money 150Joe the Trader is angry.

I’m angry at AIG, Merrill, and all the companies that are being propped up by the government and still paying people as if it were 2007. In January, I asked a good friend, Colin, who is employed by a troubled bank, how big a hit his bonus payment took.

“It really wasn’t all that bad,” he said. “I was paid down only 40%, but I don’t know how that’s possible—without the government we would be bankrupt.”