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Wrenchbender et al,

I truly understand your instincts. Really. There were atrocious mistakes made, inside and outside of government. And I have no doubt we will see jail time dealt out in the years ahead.

But what I am suggesting to you is that we need to look beyond the disgusting incompetence and negligence, and to look beyond even the fraudulence right now, and look at the system.

Before we take a knee-jerk reaction here, let's all look very closely at what life is like during a genuine Depression. Take the recessionary experiences we've all experienced...and deepen them. Considerably.

Any time you see some of the world's largest insurers, commercial and investment banks falling apart. . . you have to generate forward what the effects will be on the end consumer.

When Lehman goes under, the average American doesn't feel it. Same situation with Bear Stearns going under. When AIG goes under, you're reaching much closer to the insurance plans and retirement funds of the average American. If you start letting commercial banks crater, you are looking at a consumer depression the likes of which most of us have not seen in America in our lifetimes.

I do agree with inflationary fears. . that these bailouts are going to dilute the value of the dollar while sending prices higher. There is no tree-lined, sunsplashed road out of our situation. But a shutdown of the credit system will have a very chilling effect -- and is simply an unacceptable alternative.

On the other side of the bailout that looks to pass, the average American needs to get much more vigilant about a) how our government operates, b) how special interests can pollute the process (do you think banking lobbyists wanted taxpayers to ask for warrants?); and c) the average American needs to learn how to more effectively manage their own capital.

This bailout is not a silver bullet solution. It is another step in a long march toward financial security for America. In fact, it actually represents a few steps backward that we have to take in order to get ourselves on a better path. And while I am a strong advocate of free-market capitalism, I can see a) the need for a fix to the system and b) the need for much clearer stoplights and stop signs down the banking roadways. In my opinion, what Chairman Cox did in abandoning the 1975 net capital rule was just a horrifically horrifically poor decision.

Tom Gardner
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