The Moment

7|14|09: New York City

In the 91 days from March 28 through June 26--ending its financial quarters on the last day of the month, as most other companies do, would be too pedestrian--Goldman Sachs made more than $3.4 billion. That staggering profit--$1.6 million per hour, $117,000 per employee--is the most the firm has ever earned in a quarter. After Goldman reported the news on July 14, everyone from Wall Street to Wasilla struggled with a basic question: Should we be happy about this or not?

The case for happy is that a mere nine months after the U.S. and Europe teetered on the brink of...

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