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Kai Ryssdal: A lot of people say what's been missing in the marketplace the past eight or 10 years is a healthy enough sense of fear. No real worries that bad bets would cost investors a whole bunch of money. I think it's safe to say people are plenty scared now, and it's being reflected in what they're doing with their money. Our senior business correspondent Bob Moon has that part of this day's incredible developments.

Bob Moon: Market watchers call it a "flight to quality." Today, that meant moving your money out of the stock market and into safer government bonds. But the world "flight" hardly seems to cover it. It was more like a full-fledged stampede.

Tom Sowanick: There's a great deal of fear that is beginning to fan through the markets right now. Kind of like a bad forest fire.

Tom Sowanick is chief investment officer at Clearbrook Financial. He says the fire in the credit markets can still be contained if Congress comes up with a workable plan to extinguish it. And he doesn't like to think about the consequences.

Sowanick: If that doesn't happen, then you're going to start seeing 401(K)'s decline in value sharply, you're going to see further erosion of home prices, you're going to see the general cost of borrowing going up. Again, all of this is because of eroding confidence, it's not necessarily because of economic fundamentals.

At JPMorgan, U.S. economist Michael Feroli says getting cheap credit will be the least of your worries if your employer can't borrow money to expand the business or make the payroll.

Michael Feroli: The labor market is just going to probably be pretty awful here for a while. Businesses aren't going to be able to get the sort of funding they need to continue operations in a normal manner. And I think that's where consumers are going to feel it more than in home equity lines of credit or things like that. It's going to be the overall economic weakness.

Today, credit markets were already registering their strong worry about the future. The cost of insuring loans jumped as soon as Congress failed to approve the plan. And Doug Roberts, chief investment strategist at Channel Capital Research, says Congress clearly still needs to do something to calm the markets and prevent disaster.

Doug Roberts: The big thing right now is nobody is sure what the future will bring. And what the government has to deal with is, they have to make sure that really that this is viewed as just an attempt that failed and not an abandonment of the process.

In other words, failure is not an option.

I'm Bob Moon for Marketplace.