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The Four Phases Of Bailout Grief

How does one react to the moving target which is Congress's $700-billion bailout plan -- passed Wednesday night by the Senate, now coming before the House of Representatives? Now that the window for quick government action to ease the credit crunch is stretching out, possibly ad infinitum, computer businesses everywhere are going to have to hunker down to ride this thing out. It ain't gonna be easy.
How does one react to the moving target which is Congress's $700-billion bailout plan -- passed Wednesday night by the Senate, now coming before the House of Representatives? Now that the window for quick government action to ease the credit crunch is stretching out, possibly ad infinitum, computer businesses everywhere are going to have to hunker down to ride this thing out. It ain't gonna be easy.Last week, I was primed for quick government intervention. Now, who knows how long it's going to take? Thank goodness I'm not a business-side computer executive, because then there'd be no way to tamp down my worrying (though a three-martini lunch wouldn't hurt).

Anyway, I don't mean to minimize the accompanying very real fears about where the economy is headed. I have them, too; I actually wasn't all that worried, until I saw Jim Cramer on CNBC last week, where he made the irresponsible statement that, if the bailout plan doesn't pass, we could all have trouble getting money out of the ATM at our corner bank. At which point I immediately withdrew $500 and stuffed it in. . . well, I won't tell you where.

As is the case in today's 24-hour-news-cycle world, I've moved beyond denial about what's happening with the economy. (Freddie, Fannie, Lehman Brothers, and Wachovia'll do that to you.)

Interestingly, many Americans appear stuck in the second phase of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross's famous cycle of grief, which is anger. They're pissed off that rich Wall Streeters are looking at a Congressional gift of (newly printed, and possibly inflationary) money, while us regular folks remain stuck with our same old car and mortgage payments.

To that, I say that the restrained and more sensible reaction is, a rescue -- don't call it a "bailout" : ) package is the least risky move for the country as a whole. Do we really want to see what happens if we cut off our economic noses to stick to our principled face, when we're talking about completely uncharted waters? (See, I'm so panicked, I'm completely mixing my metaphors.)

Moving forward, I foresee that legislative dance will reach its denouement in about a week. (I'm predicting that the House will reject the reworked bill just passed by the Senate, prompting more Wall Street angst and then one more round through Congress.) In that time, we will pass through the "grief" stage and into "acceptance." (Note that "acceptance" doesn't mean that you gotta like what's going on.)

My final thought is that, whenever the going gets tough, I like to re-immerse myself in technology. Which ain't necessarily such a bad prescription -- now's not a bad time to get a jump on your next innovation, idea, product, program, whatever. Consider that, while everybody else is consumed by worry, you could be working, productively, creating some value which the economy sorely needs.

How are you coping? Let me know, by leaving a comment below or e-mailing me directly at [email protected].

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