House reverses vote and adopts bailout

Perhaps never has so much effort been put into passing so large a bill that almost everyone concedes may not be enough to do the job. But that's how leaders of both parties were viewing a $700 billion financial bailout bill the Senate approved earlier this week and that the House adopted Friday afternoon.

A similar bill failed in the House Monday, partly because of voter anger over what they saw as a giveaway to Wall Street. But as the week wore on, opponents in both parties realized that not passing a bill could be far worse than a bill that may have helped bail out financial executives who made gross mistakes that led to the credit crisis. It would have been irresponsible, and if economic experts are correct, it might have wrecked the domestic economy for years.

No one is arguing the bill will fix what's wrong. Most believe it will only begin the job of shoring up financial markets and assuring that credit will be available for small businesses that regularly depend on loans and for employees in many businesses whose paychecks depend on credit to cover short-term gaps in cash flow. Now that Congress has acted, it's important for the executive and legislative branches to put aside political difference, knuckle down to the further work of helping homeowners hang on to their houses and find common approaches to helping the nation's economy begin to recover. This has just begun.

Stay tuned next week for ‘As the Deal Turns.'

It's not funny, but we may as well laugh.

We could use it after watching the Wachovia soap opera playing on Tryon Street.

First, suitor Citigroup snuggled up to Charlotte's second-biggest bank after a not-so gentle nudge by the FDIC.

There was talk about narrowly averting disaster, a shotgun marriage to avoid a “silent run.”

It appeared there would not even be a honeymoon. Queen Charlotte's crown dimmed amid talk of certain layoffs, loss of prestige and falling housing prices.

Then, just when we adjusted to the idea of a not-so-perfect union, a surprise.

The bride ran away with a winsome stranger from the West Coast.

Wells Fargo galloped in with a surprise bid for Wachovia's hand.

But before we had time to throw the rice and pop the cork, spurned Citigroup claimed legal rights, and vowed to fight this East-West romance in court.

Whose love is strongest? Stay tuned next week.

Some parachutes have a golden glow

The fire sale of Wachovia to Citigroup, announced earlier this week before Wells Fargo negotiated a better deal for the bank Thursday night, also raised the prospect of large-scale layoffs for thousands of Wachovia employees.

It was not a happy time for workers, but it was a little brighter for some executives who had a nice severance package in store if they had to leave.

The Observer noted the other day that bank president Ben Jenkins could get a $17.6 million parachute package that includes $13.3 million severance and a $3.7 million bonus. Steve Cummings could get $20.3 million total, and David Carroll, $19.1 million. With parachutes with such a golden glow, there would be a mighty soft landing for these execs.

Some parachutes have no place to go

On the other hand, there weren't any parachutes at all Thursday when a new bank opened in Raleigh. RBC Bank, heralded as an emblem of the Capital City's downtown revival, cancelled plans for skydivers to jump from the top of the 33-story RBC Plaza a few blocks south of the Capitol.

“Given the recent market activities, we just didn't think it was an appropriate time to have people jumping off a bank building,” a bank spokesperson told The News & Observer.

Probably a good call. Folks are worried enough about financial hard times without having to think about obvious allusions to the Great Depression. And we didn't get to see what color the RBC parachutes would have been.

This text message has a sober meaning

If you've ever shuddered as an auto driver flew merrily down the street, mindlessly chattering away on a cell phone while weaving through traffic, what happened Sept. 12 in Chatsworth, Calif., was a mind-boggler.

Now the National Transportation Safety Board has confirmed what many suspected: an engineer of a passenger train was trading text messages on his cell phone with some rail fans moments before slamming into an oncoming freight train that had the right of way. The engineer's last text message evidently was sent about the time he should have been noticing and heeding a signal to stop and allow the freight train to pass.

There's a lesson in here, and it isn't about physics. It's about common sense. When operating a vehicle, using a communications device unrelated to the safe operation of the vehicle can be deadly.