Main Street Voices Irritation With Wall Street

Mark Endres has 19 years left to pay on his mortgage and the Philadelphia barber is not expecting anyone to cut him any slack. So what's all this talk about the government writing a $700 billion check to Wall Street?

Plans for a massive federal bailout may come with calls for reforming the nation's big investment banks, but "the same people are still in charge," the 51-year-old Endres said Tuesday, as he snipped at the hair of a patron. "They are still sitting back, sipping their lattes, driving their Jaguars."

Americans don't like much of what they're hearing about a $700 billion proposal to bail out listing financial institutions, especially the possibility that it could reward the very investment firms that got us into this economic mess in the first place.

But in the end, most people interviewed across the nation by The Associated Press agreed something has to be done, even if it turns out to be a bitter medicine for taxpayers to swallow.

"My resentment is toward the fat cats on Wall Street who are probably going to ride off in the sunset with millions in their saddlebags," said Margaret Tate, a 52-year-old copywriter, interviewed during a lunch break in downtown Atlanta. "I have a feeling that a lot of those people aren't going to come out of this hurting the way the average American will."

Nearly two-thirds of the public thinks the government bailout plan is the right thing to do, according to a Pew Research Center for the People and the Press survey released Tuesday. About 30 percent said it was the wrong thing to do.

The telephone survey of 1,003 adults was conducted Sept. 19-22 and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

The nation's deepening financial crisis and its roots in securities backed by subprime loans are not easy to understand. But after hearing about those problems for more than a year and a half, many people have had time to think the situation over.

"I don't like it. I don't think anybody likes it," said Jeff Mays, of Westerville, Ohio, a suburb of Columbus, interviewed outside a Kroger supermarket. "I can agree with it from a practical standpoint, but ideologically, I don't like the government messing in the markets."

Bob Heglin, a suburban Cincinnati homeowner, said he stays current on his mortgage and isn't thrilled about paying for others' irresponsibility. But he sees federal intervention as a necessary step to stabilize the economy and prevent more damage.

"I don't believe in rewarding bad behavior, but the other side of it is the people that the bad behavior will affect," said Heglin, a 50-year-old who has worked in the real estate and title industries for more than two decades. He said he wants accountability for Wall Street executives and delinquent mortgage holders, and tighter rules for the lending industry.

"I hope it's not really a bailout," he said. "I hope it's a corrective measure to stop the bleeding and then to work toward mending or healing the crack."

The talk of a bailout led Kristen Brown, a 37-year-old commercial escrow officer in Phoenix, to wonder who needs government help — and whether they deserve it.

"I remember watching some of my friends buy houses, and I was like, 'How? I mean, Your car is covered in duct tape and baling wire, and you're buying this gigantic house!'" Brown said. "Those are the people who need help to keep the economy going, but they don't necessarily deserve it."

In Chicago, Gael Mennecke, who is 57 and works for a nonprofit group, said she opposes the bailout, but would support helping homeowners who are behind on their mortgages.

"Give them an opportunity to have the loan restructured," she said. "You have communities with boarded up houses. It looks bad for property values."

Giving help to homeowners in trouble is easier to swallow than giving assistance to banks, said Lloyd Elson, a credit manager for a division of Target Corp., in downtown Minneapolis.

"All things being equal, I would rather reward the ... person in that house than someone on Wall Street who made their money off of it already," Elson said Tuesday.

There was wide agreement Tuesday that Washington should try to find a way to help the economy without doling out money to Wall Street.

"I understand the ripple effect and that something has to be done," Piper said Brian Piper in Doral, Fla. "I just wish there was better regulatory practices by the lenders at the time."

Waiting for friends on a street corner in downtown Minneapolis, lawyer Rich Erstad of St. Paul, Minn., said he didn't think the government should bail out companies.

"There's a balance," Erstad said. "You obviously don't want it to drag down the rest of the economy, but on the other hand people take risks, that's part of capitalism. And there's a downside to taking risks, too. And if you're just bailing people out, then you're encouraging that."

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  • by we need our country back on Sep 24, 2008 at 07:34 AM
    getting back to by the people for the people, we need to have a government that is honest and has far we have a group of people that waste time and no problems are solved, they get worse. our leadership has been the worst in the history of our country. The GOP leaders got us into this mess...and they are greedy and tto stupid to get us out. I refuse to have my tax money bail out irresponsible companies....we need a change in tax laws. our money goes into the hands of evil.
  • by Steve Location: Chocwinity on Sep 24, 2008 at 06:38 AM
    I agree 100% with Patty. If people were stupid enough to get a floating rate and now can't pay their bills that's their fault. The banks were just plain greedy trying get paople to spend just as much as they could get out of them. I wonder if I forward my monthly house payment to the president, or congress if they would cut me a check??? ya right
  • by George Location: Kinston on Sep 24, 2008 at 06:01 AM
    I agree with this article, but I don't think it is a democratic or republican problem, it is the government in general. the dems control the house and senate, so they could have done somehting about it just like Bush could have. I have a mortgage and other bills also, I don't see anyone ining up to help me. if I lost my job can I get help from the government? I doubt it.
  • by P Location: Fayetteville on Sep 24, 2008 at 03:11 AM
    Mr. President ! You are so out of touch. All the crooks in Washington are out of touch. Whats this we (edited)?Who gives you the authority to vote. Remember its the people (yeah right) and (edited)it we are fed up with your not in the know!

    Edited Per Hey Read The Rules

  • by patty on Sep 24, 2008 at 02:55 AM
    I feel the one is helping all of us with our bills, and i have 19 years left on my mortgage. I would like to not pay taxes to bail out the gov't and crooks on wall street that have been bleeding everyone dry. Why can't we have say in what to do? the GOP has screwed things up...bush and cheney and mccain have been so out of touch,,,,they have LIED to all of us, and now a month before Obama becomes president they admit we are in trouble and want US to bail Wall Street out? I say Hell No!!

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