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The Wall St.-Main St. Divide ... on Wall St.

One thing you can't help noticing when you read about third-quarter bank earnings is the huge divide between banks whose revenue depends heavily on trading and investment banking (underwriting, M&A, etc.) and banks whose revenue depends heavily on consumer lending. To put it simply: The banks in the former category--Goldman, JP Morgan*--are doing very well. The banks in the latter category--Citigroup, Bank of America--are performing abysmally.

I don't have a ton to say about this, other than that it highlights the limits to what can be accomplished with a "top down" bank bailout. If, like Citi and BofA, your business model is premised on ordinary Americans making mortgage and credit card payments, then the most effective bailout of all is for unemployment to stop hovering around 10 percent and start heading in the other direction pretty quickly. The second most effective bailout is for the administration to continue putting money in the hands of people who are unemployed or underemployed.

Now, obviously, the administration has a pretty strong incentive to tackle these problems anyway. But, in case you doubted its commitment, that 34 percent stake in Citigroup and the $45 billion it's lent BofA certainly focus the mind even more.

*Of course, JP Morgan has a large consumer business, too. But it more than offset losses in its consumer business with gains in investment banking. Which suggests that part of what we're seeing here is a difference in management quality. JP Morgan limited its losses on the consumer side and made big profits in investment banking. Citi and BofA had little to show for their investment banking operations and big losses on the consumer side.