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Readers want accountability on Wall Street

The meltdown on Wall Street prompted some readers to call for tighter regulations and a stop to government bailouts.
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It’s been a tumultuous few days on Wall Street, and’s readers have been reacting to some momentous events, including the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history, and Bank of America’s takeover of troubled Wall Street icon Merrill Lynch.

Now American International Group, the world’s largest insurance company, appears likely to fall victim to the credit crisis unless it can get help raising some much-needed capital.

After the meltdown on Wall Street, some readers would like to see tighter regulations on corporations, while others want the government to stop bailing out financial giants, saying they’re responsible for their own failures. Some readers even wonder why individual Americans are not receiving any financial aid.

John from Tipton, Penn., specifically wants to see upper-level management held accountable for their companies’ woes.

“Both presidential candidates have talked of reform in this area and I hope it is more than just talk,” he wrote.

Juan Garcia Jr. of Del Rio, Texas, said that as the “backbone of the economy,” workers deserve government aid, not Wall Street firms.

“Who bails out the common person struggling to survive and make the monthly mortgage [payment]?” Garcia asked. “It is not our fault that they made unsound investing decisions and then made us pay for it.”

Read on for more reader responses, which have been edited for length and clarity:

“I believe that, if the government only stayed the out of it, the free markets would deal with [the current financial crisis], and everything would be OK. At present, the all-powerful and omnipotent government will not let the situation correct itself and, because of this, the situation will only get worse over time.”
— Richard Jones, Bethlehem, Penn.

“The stock market will rebound, we have a solid financial foundation.”
— Jimmy Allen, Lillington, N.C.

“John McCain didn’t learn a thing from the savings-and-loan crisis or he would have been out front calling for more oversight for the last 20 years rather than staying wrapped in the warm fuzzy blanket of Republican deregulation fairy tale bedtime stories.”
— Steve, Frederick, Md.

“A line has to be drawn: No more bailouts. This impacts me significantly because I watch my retirement funds eroding from my 401k account. I am sorry for those employees that are losing their jobs and shareholders losing their savings but these ostriches who are hanging their heads in the sands should not be bailed out.”
— Eric Brooks, Bronx, N.Y.

“Let the private sector bail out AIG. They are the ones who created the problem with their greed and mismanagement. If the government bails them out, it sends a clear message to other company CEOs — don’t worry, mismanage — we will be there to protect your ‘golden parachute.’”
— Emmanuel Gomez, Greensboro, N.C.

“Perhaps tough love on the corporate level is in order. If the government continues to bail out investment firms, what will be their incentive to practice sound ethical behavior? We, the common Joes, had nothing to do with what drove them to invest unwisely and mismanage their company. Greed by these firms drove them into virtual ruin. Their investors and board members are to blame, not necessarily their employees. Perhaps the parties responsible should give their millions back to keep the company afloat.”
— Cindy Albonetti, Memphis, Tenn.

“The fat bonuses that the CEOs received should be taken back. It was they who created this mess; they should have to pay — not the already overburdened taxpaying citizens. And where is our government in all of this? How did it get this out of hand?”
— Sherri F., Ala.

“This shows me how urgent it is to vote Democrat in the upcoming presidential election. The housing fiasco has been a great smokescreen for the truth. The bailouts will cost everyone, there is no doubt taxes will soar no matter who is elected. This is just the tip of the iceberg.”
— Doris Rotolo, Cottonwood, Ariz.

“I think that the government should do whatever is necessary to stabilize the stock market including the housing market and oil situation. People know that they can’t sell their homes, that the values have decreased, that they’ve been paying over $4 per gallon for diesel for a while now and that they are rapidly losing their jobs and homes — and credit scores are going south.”
— Lynnetta DeVries, Melbourne, Fla.

“This shakeup is very, very scary. I lay this fiasco directly at the feet of George W. Bush. We will have more of the same if John McCain is elected. These men have no idea what life is like for the average American. My husband and I and our children work very hard to provide for ourselves and our retirement. The hope and change that must take place will only come with Barack Obama’s election as president."
— Nan S. Hart, Springfield, Mo.

“Frankly, I believe that the Fed helping AIG would set a precedent for bailing out other major insurers, and at this time the Fed should be concentrating on its banking problems; I believe there could be other sources of help for AIG and other possible insurer failures.”
— Carol Binkley, Elbert, Colo.

“While I understand that these bailouts are more than likely required at this time to stabilize the economy, my question is why anything wasn’t done preemptively to avoid the current market environment? It doesn’t take an economist to realize that the housing bubble would at some point come to an end and Americans who had taken bad mortgages would be faced with foreclosures or selling for less than what they paid.”
— Mike, Baltimore, Md.

“Why does the government continue to bail out the rich companies, but let the ordinary person go without a life preserver, unless you count the little $600 they sent out? Whose home got saved from foreclosure on that?”
— Anonymous

“I would like to know when our Senators are going to step up to the plate, stop the politics and start an investigations into these companies and hold those accountable and stop the fat cats from getting these million dollar paychecks.”
— George Reed, Van Nuys, Calif.

“My retirement is in a 403B plan through Valic, which is under the umbrella of AIG. I’m scared that if they go bankrupt all our monies will be lost and than what will happen to our retirement?"
— Laura Restrepo, Winter Springs, Fla.

“It is obvious that the complexity of the businesses involved make it impossible for any individual, CEO or CFO, to have a full grasp. A Board of Directors, by definition, can only know what senior managers know. It’s time to take the axe to some of the largest and most complex structures (like AIG and Merrill Lynch) to simplify their business models to the point that corporate governance has a chance to work as designed.”
— Charles

“I have all of my retirement with AIG. I’ve been advised to move everything except my mutual funds. I will do that today.”
— Anonymous

“The federal government is trillions [of dollars] in debt — so how can we keep doing this? Do they think if we just keep printing money until the election it will all be someone else’s problem soon?”
— James Shell, Austin

“How about saving mom and pop operations, which make up a good portion of jobs?”
— John Smith

“I know the government can handle this situation. We have a strong and business-minded determination. After the Sept. 11 attacks, the stock market went down, but the market went up after only a few years.”
— Roderick Ching, Los Angeles