The Moment

10|6|08: New York

Historians trying to decide when the Panic of 2008 began may look to the morning of Oct. 6, when the U.S. government's vaunted $700 billion rescue plan barely slowed the market meltdown. The usually ebullient CNBC host Jim Cramer went on Today and implored, "Whatever money you need for the next five years, please take it out of the market right now." Retirees were frantic. Even Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, his face a rictus of worry, said the economy probably won't improve until next year. Stocks veered wildly.

Financial panics--short-term, acute market upheavals that often coincide with long-term recessions--were common as...

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