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Is a debt downgrade a 'Lehman moment?'

STEVE CHIOTAKIS: Stock markets today are still reacting to Standard & Poor's U.S. debt downgrade -- and the European debt crisis. Both of which caused markets to tumble yesterday. An all-too-recent reminder of another time when the global economy was in crisis. 2008. Just three years ago. But one commentator thinks there are many differences between that financial meltdown -- and today.

Francesco Guerrera is editor of Money & Investing for the Wall Street Journal. He's with us live from New York. Good morning, Francesco.

FRANCESCO GUERRERA: Good morning.

CHIOTKAIS: Thank you so much for being here. We've certainly seen a lot of comparisons over the past few days to what happened in 2008. What's the difference now?

GUERRERA: The biggest difference really is how the two crises came about. The first crisis, the 2008 crisis was a bottom-up crisis. It started with people borrowing too much on their mortgage, then went through the crazy securitization of Wall Street, and ended up with financial markets roiled that government rescued. This time you could argue, actually, the government caused the crisis because they were unable to get their fiscal house in order, nor were they able to convince the markets that they could get economic growth. That's why you're seeing the market so volatile.

CHIOTKAIS: Sort of top-down, right?

GUERRERA: Absolutely. Top-down versus bottom-up.

CHIOTKAIS: The roles that the various players take on are different too, right? I'm thinking big banks, the government.

GUERRERA: The big difference is that Wall Street and the big banks really the main perpetrators of the previous crime, and ended up having to be bailed out by the government. This time with the government in the thick of the crisis, it's very difficult to see who is going to come to the rescue of the financial systems because the government can't just do that.

CHIOTKAIS: Either way, Francesco, it seems that the result is high unemployment -- prolonged unemployment, consumers who aren't spending money, all those things that we saw just a few years back in the recession in 2008. Are we going to see that again?

GUERRERA: The results are very similar right, so in 2008 taxpayers got stuck with a bill of about $1 trillion to save everybody else. And this time, they are still paying for it, in the form of high unemployment, sluggish growth, the pensions -- so, it's the normal people that end up paying for this.

CHIOTKAIS: Yes, and also helped pay for it in 2008.

GUERRERA: Absolutely. So they, unfortunately, are the victims of both crisis.

CHIOTKAIS: Francesco Guerrera, editor of Money & Investing for the Wall Street Journal. Francesco, thanks.

GUERRERA: Thank you.

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