Fiddlin' Around While Wall Street Burned

     Where were you when the lights went out on Wall Street?

     On Friday, Oct. 10, the first day the Dow dropped below 8,000 before crawling barely above that at close, a friend and I were in Atlantic City on a guys’ vacation. We went to Il Mulino for dinner – the clone of the famous New York City restaurant at Trump Taj Mahal. We had imported cheeses and sausages and imported truffles shaved over two types of pasta for appetizers. The truffles alone were $71. I had veal Osso Bucco with risotto. He had a veal chop hand-pounded thin, lightly battered, with olive oil and arugula and tomatoes. The tab, with tip, was $540.

     We were not alone. I got the last 7:00 p.m. reservation. By 7:30, every table was full. Most were ordering bottles of wine, or behind us, glass after glass of Taittinger, thus their tabs even higher than ours. Few couples, most parties of four, eight, 12.

     I remind you, not in Beverly Hills or New York City or London. In Atlantic City.

     This is the untold story of the economy.

     Between 91 and 94 percent of all home mortgages in the United States are current, not teetering at foreclosure. The overwhelming number of banks, particularly community banks, have been managed responsibly and are not on the brink of collapse. The vast majority of public corporations with stock values depressed by 20 or 30 percent are in no way connected to the mortgage meltdown, Wall Street’s house of cards or the collapsing auto industry. They are well-managed companies and their fundamentals are sound. And there are still productive, successful, optimistic people.

     Thus, on Friday, Atlantic City filled up. The show we went to had every single one of its 1,000 tickets sold and seats filled so that a $100 tip could only move us from a bad seat to an OK seat, not a great one. On return Saturday mid-day to Akron, Ohio, we struggled through dense traffic moving to and from stores and restaurants, mostly made up of new and nearly new automobiles, all populated by people talking on cell phones.

     Why wasn’t Atlantic City a ghost town? Why weren’t the Akron streets as empty at noon at midnight? Why weren’t all the allegedly starving masses at home huddling?

     Of course there are serious economic problems that require urgent fixing. That is best done, largely, with private capital, not the stampede to socialism made palatable through the marketing of crisis and manufacture of panic we’ve seen orchestrated – with a woefully ignorant media, parroting panic-talking points.

     Billionaire Warren Buffett came forward and plunked money on the table, and even though his deal at GE, as example, is unfavorable to existing shareholders, it’s not as disastrous for us as the Fed’s pillage of AIG or Washington Mutual. And if properly incentivized, Warren has more billions to invest. Wilbur Ross, maybe the smartest investor, has outright offered to put billions into troubled banks if arcane rules about owning banks and other businesses are modified. That requires only common sense and the quick stroke of a pen.

     The Paulson crowd prefers playing God with taxpayer money. The solutions here shouldn’t be sought from bureaucrats but from capitalists, just as they were for the Great Depression. That’s a call to arms for the Gateses, Buffetts, Rosses, etc.; the richest entrepreneurs, investors and industrialists to step forward. A waiver of all capital gains taxes on all needed investments, a team led not by co-conspirators in the problem but by those proven adept at turnarounds – the making of the 911 calls to the right people. This is what was and is needed.

     The media reporting on all this is shamefully shallow. From Dr. Phil to CNN, everyone’s in the game. Most are telling people to drain whatever they have left in the market or to cease investing, to cease spending, to gather at kitchen tables and cut budgets and scissor credit cards. These same talking heads then wail about the lack of consumer confidence. And where, oh where, is the balance? Any balance?

     I know. I know. The story of the dog that didn’t bark isn’t newsworthy. But at this moment, maybe the media have a patriotic duty to report on the majority of healthy corporations, the millions of successful small businesses, the entrepreneurs busily engaged in new start-ups and expansions and product launches.

     While this ultimately sorts itself out despite government meddling, I am busily planning a return trip to Il Mulino. Yes, while it requires taking a jet to get there, you should taste the sauce on the Osso Bucco.

Dan Kennedy is a serial entrepreneur, adviser to business owners, sought-after speaker and author of 13 books. More information about Dan can be found at, and a free collection of his business resources including newsletters and webinars at