Wall Street's very bad day

The Dow drops 500 points -- and marks the beginning of a new stage in the presidential campaign. Palin who?

Published September 15, 2008 8:43PM (EDT)

At the closing bell, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 504.48 points, or 4.42 percent. Other indexes performed similarly: Nasdaq, down 3.6 percent; S&P 500, down 4.71 percent, Russell 2000, down 4.3 percent.

That's a bad day -- according to one measure, the worst day for stocks in the United States since Sept. 11, 2001.

And it raises some questions. Would the damage have been less if the government had bailed out Lehman instead of letting it fall? If the Fed now decides to lower interest rates on Tuesday, will that undo any of the good -- in terms of disciplining the market -- achieved by finally halting the endless bailout? And what happens now to the presidential campaign?

From the end of the Democratic National Convention until today, the political dynamic belonged to Sarah Palin. But the governor of Alaska is suddenly old news. A 500-point drop in the Dow, combined with Lehman's bankruptcy, Merrill Lynch's sale to Bank of America, and the woes of AIG and Washington Mutual, mark the beginning of a new era. With less than two months to go before Election Day, the economy just moved back to front-and-center.

By Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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2008 Elections Globalization How The World Works Sarah Palin Stock Market U.s. Economy