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Consumers Fret as Wall Street’s Turmoil Continues to Unfold

Personal finance concerns have jumped across the country as trouble among U.S. financial firms has roiled Wall Street. Columnist Jane Bryant Quinn and economist Diane Swonk discuss the impact of the crisis on everyday Americans.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    Next, following Wall Street's troubles, on to Main Street, with Margaret Warner.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    And to explore the impact of all this turmoil on ordinary Americans and how they should respond, we're joined by Jane Bryant Quinn, a best-selling author and columnist for Newsweek and Bloomberg.com, and Diane Swonk, chief economist at Mesirow Financial, a Chicago-based financial services firm.

    Welcome to you both.

    Diane Swonk, we've been talking about what's going on in the markets, what's going on in Washington, but let's come down to ground level. How are ordinary Americans being affected by this right now?

  • DIANE SWONK, Chief Economist, Mesirow Financial:

    Well, what we're already seeing is, because the markets have been in such disarray, things like mortgages are not only more expensive than they were a year ago, they're more expensive than they were just a few months ago.

    So it's getting more and more difficult for the average consumer to go out there and buy a home out of foreclosure, which is a great deal. It's getting harder for them to get an auto loan, harder for them to get a credit card.

    In fact, their credit card is maybe on a shorter payback basis now, with a higher interest rate or a lower amount that they can charge on it.

    All of that is crimping them at the very same time that their wages have been stagnating and oil prices have been eating up a larger portion of their discretionary budget.

    So it really is a very hard time for U.S. consumers, where no matter what happens tonight — and I do welcome some kind of resolution in Congress with Ben Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Paulson — no matter what happens tonight, you can't escape the fact that conditions are going to get worse before they get better during this — as we approach this holiday season for the U.S. consumer.

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