The meltdown: Where we are, where are we going

There’s a combination of feelings I’ve had over the past months as we work our way through the meltdown and resulting bailout of the banking system and the overall economy. Nausea and dread are pretty high up there; anticipation, wondering when the next shoe is going to drop; puzzlement.

For me the big one is the last one. I’ve got an MBA from a quantitative program, albeit with a focus in marketing rather than finance, and I’ve been having trouble finding a perspective that concisely explains what is going on, much less being able to get enough information that I can explain it to anyone else.

To that end, this interview with Rep. Paul Kanjorski (D-PA) on CSPAN was helpful (hat tip to Dave Winer for tweeting the interview). I’ve started it where he begins to explain what actually happened on September 18, when we were hours away from all the funds vanishing out of the banking system via an electronic run on the bank:

So that’s how we got to where we are. The question is, where’s the bottom?

I see conflicting evidence points. Bankruptcies and foreclosures abound, for sure, and there are people who are hungry. But there are still venture deals happening (albeit with existing portfolio companies) and companies are still hiring. So what’s going on? Has the meltdown not trickled all the way down, or are there simply a lot of firms that were less vulnerable thanks to their debt position that are going to ride this out?