Niagara Gazette

Columns

September 18, 2013

BRADBERRY: Standing on the brink of disaster, or verge of greatness?

Niagara Gazette — Paging through Hank Paulson’s 2010 nearly 500 word book, yesterday “On the Brink,” his version of the “impending financial Armageddon” that nearly collapsed the entire world economy exactly five years ago this week, I could not help but draw comparisons between the world’s teetering economy and Niagara’s fragile condition then and now.

Particularly striking, is the line he wrote about his answer to Congress’ question, “What would happen if we didn’t get the authorities we sought? He replied, “May God help us all.”

You got THAT right, I quipped to myself, you got THAT right!

Sure, there are huge differences between what happened to the world economy, and what happened to Niagara Falls, but there are definitely some fair comparisons to be drawn too.

The Lehman Brothers Sept. 15, 2008 default was, no doubt, the biggest single failure in history, drawing then Secretary of the Treasury, Henry M. Paulson and Fed chairman Ben Bernanke into an emergency meeting with key members of the U.S. Congress on this exact day to launch the historic $700 bailout of Wall Street which had managed to lose billions in so-called toxic subprime assets.

The huge debt and ensuing defaults were amassed in large part as the result of alleged predatory lending schemes that left millions stranded, upside down, owing more than their homes were worth, facing foreclosure, bankruptcy, homelessness, jobless, and to this day, for many, hopeless, many not even trying to find work anymore as the recession completely shattered their American Dreams.

The result, according to a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll, “More than six in 10 Americans say they are not confident that the country will be able to avoid another collapse, with a majority saying Washington and Wall Street have not done enough to thwart one.”

Fortunately, Niagara Falls escaped the bubble that inflated the markets, so when it burst, we were nearly immune from it; sadly, our economy had already all but collapsed decades ago, way before the 2008 crash; we’ve been wading on the brink for decades already, we’re used to it.

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