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A new approach: The Dept. of Panic

It was another one of those things that just happened overnight. Given the circumstances and the timing, it should not have come as a surprise to anyone except that it was so sudden: our government, recognizing that we are in a state of panic, created a Department of Panic to get a grip on the situation and control the spreading panic. The president named a cabinet level officer, the Secretary of Panic, to head the department. This was an emergency measure to be sure and the sole mission of the department was to calm the stormy waters caused by the current economic crisis of 9/11 proportions.

The first thing the secretary did was to recruit and hire 1,000 of the calmest, most low key, temperamentally steady folks in the entire United States to answer phone calls from the scared, confused citizens of our country. Here were some of the questions and answers.

Q. I'm scared. Should I pull my money out of the bank and put it under my mattress?

A. No, don't panic. Your account is insured by the FDIC for up to $100,000.00.

Q. I have insurance with AIG. Will AIG still pay my claims?

A. Sure. The government took over AIG and your claims will still be paid.

Q. If my bank gets in trouble, can they call my mortgage and make me pay up now?

A. No, but your mortgage might be sold to another bank and you'll end up sending your payments somewhere else. No problem.

Q. Should I sell my house and move to China where all our jobs are going?

A. Can you speak Chinese? This is not a time to panic. Chinese workers are getting paid less than 1/10 of what you're getting.

Q. I read we're paying over $750 billion to bail out Wall Street. Why should my tax money go to support fat cats who already make millions?

A. It hurts doesn't it? Congress wants very little of that money to go to the fat cats. It's designed to keep money in the economy so we don't shut down and you can borrow when you need to and keep your job.

Q. Should I cash in my mutual fund -- it's way down now.

A. The time to sell is not when it's lowest. Don't panic. Every downturn is followed by an upturn. You'll probably do best by just hanging on and riding out the storm.

Q. I read that the markets in France, England, Germany, Iceland, Sweden, Australia, China, Japan and all around the globe are also slumping. Is the whole world going broke?

A. We're definitely heading into a global recession, but the other countries are still looking to the U.S. for economic leadership. Amid discouragement, that's a good sign.

Q. Should I vote for Obama-Biden or McCain-Palin?

A. We stay away from politics in the Department of Panic. Our mission is to calm the waters not stir them up.

Q. What's the best dietary advice you can give me?

A. We don't give dietary advice. Make sure you get lots of fiber.

Q. Does Sarah Palin have sex appeal?

A. We don't answer questions about sex appeal, but after President Asif Zardari of Pakistan met Sarah Palin, he said she was gorgeous and he'd like to hug her. But he can't vote in our election.

Q. Are we in for some pain?

A. Probably. We're probably going to have to just hunker down and wait for the storm to pass.

Q. Will it pass?

A. The Great Depression passed and this too shall pass.

Q. Who will win the World Series?

A. We don't answer sports questions. The Boston Red Sox.

Q. I drink Budweiser beer. I see that Anheuser Busch sold out to a Belgian company for $52 billion. Will Bud still be available for me?

A. Don't worry -- there will always be a Bud for you and it will be the same old Bud.

Q. What can I do about my fear?

A. The only thing to fear is fear itself.

Q. What's the best song to sing when I'm worried like this?

A. "Don't Worry, Be Happy," and later "Happy Days Are Here Again."

Q. What's the best kind of friend to have during tough times?

A. An optimist.