We are in uncharted financial crisis waters.

In my 20 years in the financial communities, I've never seen so many major financial institutions going belly-up in such a short and record amount of time.

Let's call the roll: Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, Freddie Mac/Fannie Mae, Merrill Lynch and (rumor now has it) WAMU and AIG.

This is like the worst hangover you've ever had from binge drinking at a college party. The cause of this, in my judgment, started with an overinflated real estate market. Then the balloon burst and the collateral damage included homeowners with burdensome mortgages and the financial institutions that participated, both directly and indirectly, in real estate financing.

The culprits in the real estate boom included the U.S government, which gave its implicit guarantees to Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, thereby causing them to make poor credit decisions and become overleveraged; the banking regulators who forced financial institutions to write down mortgages that were below collateral value but still performing and thereby impaired the capital of the financial institutions; the Wall Street financial institutions, which encouraged improvident lending standards and underwrote and sold the resulting debt to trusting investors who believed their securities had better underlying collateral and credit than they did; and, lastly, the American homeowners, who took the bait of easy money and acquired more real estate than they could afford.

In other words, you can pass this blame and shame to our entire governing society that permitted and watched as this nightmare unfolded. This didn't occur overnight; it occurred over a period of 10 to 20 years. Which basically means it will take time for the market to correct the problems generated by this crisis. How much time? If I knew the answer, I would be the wealthiest man on the planet.

Mayday! Mayday! Abandon ship! Our financial institutions and markets are sinking, with your investments and savings along with them. Abandon ship.

Visit www.armstrongwilliams.com .