For Many Americans, Fear and Distrust Run High

Just across the river from Capitol Hill, reactions varied as news of the bailout bill failure hit Arlington.
By Joel Achenbach and Ashley Surdin
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The leaders of the country said: Trust us.

The people said: Not this time.

The Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 in the end was a $700 billion piece of legislation that few people could truly love, and it offered citizens from across the ideological spectrum a little something to hate. Conservatives said they could not abide the government intrusion on the free market. Liberals recoiled at government checks rescuing Gucci-wearing Masters of the Universe. There were those who sniped that this was a "No Banker Left Behind" program.

A political establishment held in higher regard might have been able to hold together some kind of coalition of the willing. But distrust of the nation's leaders, from the leaders of Congress to the president of the United States, foreclosed that possibility.

Members of Congress in both liberal and conservative districts were inundated with e-mails and phone calls from angry voters opposing the bailout. With Election Day a little more than a month away, many lawmakers appeared to pay greater heed to their constituents than to their party leaders.

In interviews across the Washington area and in several locations nationwide, Americans reacted to the congressional vote and the market plunge with opinions that carried a common denominator of consternation.

Here's Peter Kane, 60, an entertainment lawyer, getting a shave at Albert's Haircutting & Style in Santa Monica, Calif., the towel on his face puffing as he talked:

"There's got to be some kind of bailout, but the bottom line is that I just don't trust these guys." Look at the Iraq war, he said. "Everything this administration has touched has gone to hell."

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."

CONTINUED     1           >

© 2008 The Washington Post Company