WASHINGTON – President Bush asked Congress last week to approve a $700 billion bailout for Wall Street’s plummeting markets, but some Marylanders have significant reservations about this solution.
At Metro stations in different parts of the state, residents — like 82-year-old Robert Laue, a principal analyst for the Department of Health and Human Services — said they are concerned the president’s plan takes too much of taxpayers’ money and gives it to Wall Street executives, who they believe caused the economic crisis.
“I don’t think the government should pay the people that did it to us, under any circumstance,” said Laue, an independent and undecided voter from Silver Spring. “They did it; let them suffer, not us.”
Ann Wheaton, a 49-year-old architect from Greenbelt, said she’s worried the bailout will allow Wall Street executives to profit.
“I am skeptical about it in terms of the idea of these corporate leaders still making these phenomenal salaries,” she said. “I think that making the same salary as the president of the United States ($400,000) should be more than enough for people to live on. And I certainly am concerned that the taxpayers are going to take the hit and be left holding the bill.”
But Wheaton, an Obama supporter, said she is also not sure what the government should do.
“I don’t know what the way out is,” she said. “I’m concerned that McCain and Bush have co-opted Obama into having to take part in something he’s not altogether in agreement with.”
Other residents just want Congress to provide oversight and ensure the money is repaid to the government.
Tim Illig, 44, is a project manager from Jessup who plans to vote for Obama. He said Congress must protect the taxpayers.
“Yes, we can loan people money, but there has to be some way to pay it back, and I think we have to have some regulations to try to prevent these things from happening again,” he said.
Chris Tillery, a 53-year-old engineer from Boyds, is also voting for Obama, and he said he thinks Congress will modify the plan so it doesn’t amount to a large loss in government funds.
“It’s not really a $700 billion bailout,” he said. “It depends how it’s applied. Is it going to be applied over a number of years? Is it going to be applied as guarantees, which I think it is? So you’re not going to shell out all of the money at one time or even all the money. It all depends on how it’s structured.”
Other Marylanders said the bailout plan is necessary to prevent Wall Street from collapsing.
Rob Bassett, 50, is a Republican who said he leans more toward the Democratic side each day. He said he doesn’t think the country has much choice but to pass the bailout.
“I think for anybody who’s invested in the stock market, if we don’t do anything our stocks won’t be worth anything,” Bassett said. “Personally, I have too much in the stock market, and there’s nothing I can do about it.”
Scott Reid, a 40-year-old government affairs director from Gaithersburg who is an independent leaning toward McCain, said he doesn’t like the bailout but if the economic experts think it’s necessary, it may help the economy.
“Even though it’s very painful, maybe there’s a chance that long-term some of these bad debts are eventually going to regain some value, and this might be the dose of medicine that the economy needs to help the stock market again, allow businesses to continue getting credit and so on.”
Democrat Raymond Ayeboua, a 53-year-old accountant from Germantown, said he supports the president’s proposal because the government has to do something to fix Wall Street.
“I support it because the economy is too bad now,” he said. “The government has to step in to bail them out. It’s good for everybody.”
But 33-year-old Chris Simmons who works at the Smoke Shop in Annapolis said he is not sure the bailout will solve the economic crisis.
“I am highly skeptical that this proposed plan is really addressing the root cause of the problem,” he said. “I’m not confident that it will have a positive effect and possibly have long-term negative effects.”
Congressional phones have been ringing with constituent concerns.
The issue is complex and needs to be looked at closely, said Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, R-Kennedyville.
“What my constituents don’t want to happen is a Great Depression but neither do they want unworthy people to be rewarded monetarily,” he said. “So basically what I’m telling them is the president’s proposal will not pass, and we’re working on a bill that does not reward greed, ignorance and fraud.”
Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Kensington, also said he wants to make some changes to the proposal and address his constituents’ concerns.
“Understandably, they do not want to give the Bush Treasury Department a blank check to use taxpayer dollars for a Wall Street bailout,” he said. “They believe there have to be very serious checks and balances in this process, and I totally agree that there have to be significant strings attached if we have to move forward in this direction.”
Reps. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Cockeysville, and John Sarbanes, D-Towson, also said their districts are worried about who the proposal will benefit.
“They want to make sure the little guy is protected,” Ruppersberger said.
“They are expressing a lot of concern about the amount of money that has been proposed,” Sarbanes said. “They are expressing concerns about giving this much authority to one person.”
But Sarbanes also said his constituents know the government needs to do something.
“I think they recognize that we are in a critical time here,” he said, “and that something has to be done to restore a confidence in the markets because of the potential domino or cascade effect that that can have and sort of reach all sectors.”
Capital News Service reporter Elizabeth Piazza contributed to this report.