“One of my largest suppliers was just cut off by his bank...he says he won’t be able [to] deliver at the end of the month.” It was early October, 2008, and the financial markets were in chaos. The CEO of one of the nation’s largest retailers was panicked; unless his vendor quickly found another bank, it wouldn’t pay its employees and suppliers and would leave the retailer without an important shipment. The CEO was asking if I could help.

At that moment the implications of the financial shock that had begun only a few weeks earlier became clear. What it meant for Wall Street was already obvious: Hysteria had taken hold of the financial system as venerable institutions teetered and collapsed. But the implications for Main Street weren’t ...

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