September 30, 2008


For Many Americans, Fear and Distrust Run High (Joel Achenbach and Ashley Surdin, 9/30/08, Washington Post)

Many people yesterday afternoon were still absorbing the news that the stock market had gone into a dive -- hitting a couple of ledges on the way down the cliff -- and it is possible that sentiment for some kind of bailout could increase as investors look at their portfolios.

"I thought: This doesn't seem to be affecting me or my family," said Chuck Taggart, 46, a New Orleans native who lives in Los Angeles. "Then I looked at my 401(k) today."

It was down 19 percent.

"I'm nervous about the whole thing."

To a degree that few Americans could have appreciated just a few weeks ago, the economy runs on credit. But politics runs on a form of credit, too, generically known as trust, and trust has been a scarce commodity recently in Washington.

President Bush, burdened with historically low approval ratings, was slow to try to sell to the American people what he called a "rescue." Academic economists frowned upon the legislation, and radio talk show hosts railed against it.

The bailout lacked a sympathetic character at the heart of the narrative. And many Americans simply did not believe that the government had the basic competence to do the right thing.

"You've got massive public distrust and dissatisfaction, with the bailout specifically, with government in general, and George Bush and the entire political establishment," said Doug Muzzio, professor of public affairs at Baruch College in New York.

In a USA Today-Gallup poll conducted Friday and Saturday, 39 percent of respondents said they approved of the way Democratic leaders in Congress responded to the financial crisis, 31 percent approved of the Republican congressional leadership's response, and 28 percent approved of Bush's handling of the situation.

"This vote is a reflection of a lack of political capital, not of financial capital," said Mitchell Moss, a professor of urban planning at New York University. "The bankruptcy exists in our political leadership, not on Wall Street. We need to bail out Nancy Pelosi and George Bush."

The one bright side of the House GOP trying to be populist is that just as they opposed the plan because of the shouting on the Right they'll support it when their constituents realize that they're the ones losing money.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 30, 2008 9:17 AM
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