The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell below 10,000 this morning for the first time since 2004. Gosh, it seems like only yesterday that investors were as giddy as school girls when the leading stock market indicator crossed that once-unthinkable benchmark. Remember the Dow 10,000 hats? I bet the people who bought them along with other keepsakes of better times plan to unload them on eBay so they can fill up their tanks with gas. In fact, some people have already started selling bull market memorabilia. A Lehman Brothers coffee mug is available on eBay for $14.99, while the book Dow 36,000 is attracting no bidders for the bargain-basement price of $1.93.
These are lousy times. The real estate market continues to suck wind. Holiday retail sales are expected to be their worst in years. Hundreds of billions of dollars worth of federal bailouts have failed to unfreeze the credit market or provide any relief for homeowners hurt by the subprime crisis. A good part of the market's downturn can be blamed on lax corporate governance, including outrageous CEO pay.
According to the Corporate Library, former American International Group (NYSE: AIG) Chief Executive Martin Sullivan was paid $43.9 $15 million (corrected by Corporate Library) in 2007. His pay was at or above the 90th percentile for the S&P 500. Now, the insurance giant is owned by the federal government and is in the midst of selling off its assets. The Corporate Library's Nell Minow noted in testimony before Congress today about AIG that shareholders have nothing against paying executives well. "They just don't want them to get paid a lot of money without earning it," she said in a written testimony.
As the New York Times noted on Sunday, the rich also are suffering as Wall Street continues to bleed jobs by the tens of thousands. People are putting their multi-million dollar yachts up for sale and making agonizing decisions about whether to part with the estate in the country or the swanky New York apartment, the paper said. One industry that is not hurting is strip clubs.
"Men will never grow tired of the high-class strip-club experience," said Lonnie Hanover, a spokesman for Rick's Cabaret International in New York. Rick's, which is publicly traded on the Nasdaq and has 19 clubs across the country, even plans to expand. "When times are tough, there is no better form of escapism than a night at a gentlemen's club."