There w a lot of back and forth in congress a fuller

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effect, the biggest bailout in financial history—would revive the catatonic capital markets. There was a lot of back-and-forth in Congress, a fuller proposal was asked for, and as the program was about to go up for a vote, the Jewish High Holy Days approached. I’m not extremely religious, but I have always been traditional, and the Jewish holidays are important to me. I had always taken off work and gone to shul on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, with no questions asked by my managers. My girlfriend’s family, who lived in Dallas, had invited the two of us down to celebrate the Jewish New Year. Nadine and I had been dating for two years by now, and would alternate holidays between my cousins in Chicago and her family in Dallas. Nadine had left already that weekend, but I changed my ticket so I could wait until the last possible moment. Now, however, the earth was shaking. It was Monday, September 29, 2008. Rosh Hashanah was to start at sundown, and Congress was to vote on Paulson’s proposal that afternoon. I went to an observant Jewish managing director on the floor to get some guidance. Should I leave the ship when it felt like it was sinking? “I need your advice, man,” I said. “I’m supposed to leave now to catch a flight to Dallas for Rosh Hashanah. It feels like the whole financial system as we know it could collapse any minute and take us down with it. I have never worked on Yontif before, but are these exceptional circumstances? Do I stay?” He didn’t hesitate. “It’s not even a choice,” he said. “I don’t care if Goldman Sachs goes bankrupt this minute; you and I are not going to change the outcome. Rosh Hashanah is the biggest day of the Jewish year. Go.” He had put the world into perspective for me. I got in a cab and headed to the airport.
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I was running late for my flight, and the whole way, I was on the phone with my associate on the desk, asking her how the markets were looking ahead of the congressional vote. “It’s looking okay,” she said. “The market is holding in; the market is expecting TARP to pass.” I got to the airport and rushed through security, worried I was going to miss my flight. I made it through. Running to the gate, I phoned my associate again. TARP was the only thing the market was hanging its hat on to instill some stability and provide a way forward. “So, what’s the latest?” I asked. “You’re not going to believe this,” she said. She repeated it: “You are not going to believe this.” “What? What?” I said. She sounded stunned: “They did not pass the bill.” Now, this was very unexpected. Everyone thought Congress had realized that the patient was about to die, and that TARP was essential. But the House Republicans had revolted, had changed their minds at the last minute and voted down the bill. “Holy shit,” I said. “What’s the market doing?” “It’s tanking, it’s tanking, it’s tanking,” my associate said. She meant the S&P 500: between our two phone calls, it had fallen something like 6 percent. A bad day on Wall Street is a drop of 1 or 2 percent, which doesn’t happen often. A terrible day is a drop of 3 percent, which happens maybe a few times a year. Markets don’t drop 6 percent while you are on a five-minute conversation. This
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