But hey, if bailouts are good enough for Wall Street, might as well hand them out to everybody! After all, even if all these initiatives are signed into law, they’ll probably still total less than the toxic waste the Fed’s taken off of Bear Stearns’ (JPMorgan’s) hands.

And just you wait, taxpayers ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Here’s the Los Angeles Times:

The bill is aimed at stemming the rising tide of foreclosures, a big factor in the nation’s continuing housing slump. Addressing the longer-term causes and fallout, including reforming the mortgage process and dealing with homeowners who are “underwater” and owe more than their homes are worth, will have to wait for more comprehensive legislation.

Global recession?

U.S. manufacturing activity dropped last month to the lowest level in nearly five years, but the decline was at a slower rate than in February. It’s still in recessionary territory, though.

In economic news, construction spending tumbled 0.3 percent in February, but that was less than the 1 percent drop in January. It was the fifth straight decline and was driven by a 1 percent drop in residential construction spending, but year over year that number is down 19 percent.

The International Monetary Fund cut its prediction for 2008 worldwide economic growth to 3.7 percent, which would be the slowest rate in six years. That’s down from the IMF’s 5.2 percent prediction last summer. It says there’s a one in four chance of global recession, which it defines as 3 percent or less for some reason that’s not explained, and predicted growth of just 0.5 percent in the U.S.

The LATreports that luxury car sales dropped 15 percent in March, more than the overall decline of 12 percent.

That decline would buck the conventional wisdom that the wealthy are largely immune to market woes. To some degree that’s true, as the relative stability of $5-million-plus real estate in the face of the housing crisis has shown. But weakness in the “low-priced” luxury auto segment—generally defined as cars costing $35,000 to $60,000—seems to indicate that the country’s financial troubles are creeping into loftier socioeconomic climes.

Zell’s new business model

Finally, whether Sam Zell eventually adds any value to the newspaper industry or not, he’s bringing some much-needed comic relief. The real-estate tycoon, now media baron, had some April Fool’s fun with the Tribune Company’s Web site, adding a “DebtoMeter” and puppy pictures and renaming the company ZellCoMediaEnterprises Inc. for a day.

Our favorite feature: a Tip Jar that said “Hey buddy, help a paper out?”

Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at rc2538@columbia.edu.