Miscommunication on financial bailout plan creates doubts
Oct 02, 2008 (Ventura County Star - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- It's become abundantly clear that the public doesn't fully understand how the proposed bailout plan would help the economy.
"We've just kind of heard the government's going to write this check," said Mark Hiepler, an Oxnard lawyer. "It just seems like it's too easy. Too fast. And have we learned a lesson?"
Echoing that, Patrick Mullins, owner of Brian de Staic Jewelry in Ventura, said, "I think the general public does not understand what's going on at the moment. I think they're looking at it like, Oh my God, these people, whoever they are, are asking for $700 billion. Why should we give it to them?'"
The lack of understanding might be attributed to poor communication by the Bush administration or the inability of the average person to comprehend complicated economics. Either way, Ventura County residents are saying they have a fuzzy understanding of the bailout.
Andy Frokjer, vice president and communications manager for Rabobank NA, which has nine branches in Ventura County, said he doesn't "think the audience that was being considered by the people in Washington was you and me, the average person. The audience I think they were talking to was the financial markets and to Congress, and not to the common people."
As a result, he said, "if you talk to 10 people on the street, you would get 10 different answers about what the bailout plan is and why it is needed."
Another small-business owner, Mark Boos Benhard, co-founder of Kookie Krazy in Thousand Oaks, said, "The plan is incredibly complicated for even the brightest of minds, so to be fair, I don't think it's possible for the media to convey it in a simple manner for the average American."
In addition, he noted that leading economists differ widely on its need and potential effect, which further complicates the message.
Going by the moniker "ImMadAsHellAndImNotGoingToTakeItAnymore," someone posted a message on The Star's Web site this week, venting frustration over the bailout:
"This thing was hyped like a bad movie. I've heard a lot of hysterical rhetoric, but what I would like to hear is a reasoned discussion by experts of: 1) What caused this mess 2) what can be done and how that solution would work, and 3) a reasonable assessment of what happens if we do nothing."
Inefficient communication and education is likely one of the reasons the country is in this mess to begin with, according to Michael Sment, chairman of the Ventura County Bar Association's Bankruptcy Section.
"Not enough people understand finances," he said. "And people don't seem to understand that in the bigger picture of things, yeah, we're going to be bailing people out that don't deserve it and who were greedy. But if we don't, the consequences will be much worse."
Gerald Lukiewski operates by the maxim that one should be wary when being prodded for a quick signature, so he was immediately suspicious when Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson asked for a fast $700 billion to stave off economic collapse in the United States.
"I've been banking for 30 years, and I'm puzzled why they're in such a rush," said Lukiewski, president and chief executive officer of Ventura County Business Bank. "It's baffling."
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