As the temperature in New York City rose to 99 degrees last week and fast-food garbage lay strewn about the city's streets, Chemical Bank and the Manufacturers Hanover Trust Co., two giant banks that likely would have failed, decided to consolidate. New Jersey regulators took over the Mutual Benefit Life Insurance Co. in the largest insurance seizure on record. Axa, the second-largest French insurance company, injected $1 billion in cash in the Equitable Life Assurance Society of America, the third-biggest insurer in the United States.
It's summertime, but the living ain't easy.
States and cities continued to fight over their budgets, and the ones that had completed their began to notice real reductions in services. Gov. Lowell P. Weicker Jr. of Connecticut went on prime-time television last Tuesday evening to urge residents (in the words of The New York Times) "to rise up and yell for the income tax" so he can solve his state's money problems. The governor also took time to berate the Connecticut legislature as "the gang that couldn't count straight." Maybe the heat has reached Mr. Weicker, but his tactics seem almost designed to fail.
In Washington, members of the Senate, by a 53-to-45 vote, decided to grant themselves $23,200 more each year in salary, lifting their annual pay from $101,900 to $125,100. Many of the no votes came from senators up for re-election next year, and they will be able to blame the others when the campaigns begin in 1992.
Even though everyone knows senators have been underpaid, if you consider their power and general levels of executive salaries, the salary increase does leave a bad taste. Sen. John Seymour, a Republican from California who voted no and who will run next year, commented that "if you're running a business, you don't give yourself a raise when you're in the red." The federal government's deficit for fiscal 1992 will balloon to an unprecedented $348 billion even though Gramm-Rudman's backers had promised years ago -- criss-cross their hearts -- that it would achieve balance about then.
Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan gave his semiannual testimony on monetary policy before the House Banking Committee last Tuesday, and he said he saw "compelling signs that the recession is behind us" and that he could find no evidence of a "double-cession. He signaled no change in interest rates, and that must mean no effort to push them any lower. Spoken like a man comfortable with his reappointment to a four-year term as chairman.
Summertime in 1991 is not all shade of elms and maples in New England. It is a period distinguished by malaise, by problems without progress toward solutions.