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Tickers in this Article: GM, F, TM, EBAY, AIG, MSFT
Last night I watched "Life on Mars," a television program centered around a police detective named Sam Tyler (played by Jason O'Mara), who, following a car accident, suddenly finds himself transported to 1973. Naturally, Tyler is confused, which is quite understandable given the circumstances.

Just imagine what he had to deal with: an oil crisis causing gasoline prices to quadruple practically overnight, bankrupt banks (in England), the Dow Jones dropping nearly 18% in value during the year (on its way to a 40.3% decline by the end of 1974) and a presidency in turmoil. If it weren't for bell-bottom jeans, "Jesus Christ Superstar" and Tony Orlando & Dawn, I doubt Tyler would have ever known he'd left the present.

Frankly, things have gotten so bad in the latter half of 2008 that I recently began putting out food for wandering "Okies" that happen by - I just hope the locusts don't get to it first. (Ride the wayback machine in The Gold Standard Revisited and The Stock Market: A Look Back.)

Weak Week
On Oct. 9, both the Dow and Nasdaq finished down for the seventh consecutive trading day since Sept. 30 and shares in General Motors (NYSE:GM) continued losing value faster than autographed pictures of Kimbo Slice, finishing the session at their lowest level since 1950. In the true spirit of competition, fellow automaker Ford (NYSE:F) attempted to keep pace, closing at $2.08 on Thursday (a 26-year low), while Japan-based Toyota (NYSE:TM) played the spoiler by ending the day at $62.40 - only about a five-year-low.

The news was no better earlier in the week, as online auction house eBay (Nasdaq:EBAY) announced that it was cutting 1,600 jobs and federal officials scolded executives at American International Group (NYSE:AIG) for blowing $440,000 of a prior $85 billion emergency loan on a lavish California retreat that, according to lawmakers, included spa treatments, banquets and golf outings.

To show their disgust, the Feds offered AIG another $37.8 billion loan on Wednesday. I'm guessing, if AIG execs party like its 1999 - when the Dow closed the year at 11,497.12 and the Nasdaq finished at 4,069.31 - again, they'll get even less taxpayer money the next time.

And if all that wasn't enough, the National Debt Clock in New York City has run out of digits to display the growing figure, the AP reports.

Even so, there have been a few economic bright spots. Commerce Department statistics show that the U.S. trade deficit shrunk by 3.5% in August to $59.1 billion, the price of oil is the lowest it's been since October 2007 and, according to the Labor Department, jobless claims dropped from a seven-year high last week. Oh, and bailout advocate Warren Buffet replaced Microsoft (Nasdaq:MSFT) chairman Bill Gates as the richest man in America, breaking Gates' 15-year stranglehold on the title. (To learn more, read Warren Buffett: How He Does It.)

Light At The End Of The Tunnel
Through all the economic upheaval, President Bush has remained remarkably stoic, reminding folks why the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 was necessary and why it will eventually ease market tensions.

"Let me remind you that credit is the lifeblood of business, the lifeblood of prices and jobs," Bush said.

Wait, I'm sorry, it was Herbert Hoover who said that. I guess I'm capable of time travel too.

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