The U.S. Senate voted on Thursday to release the remaining $350 billion of the TARP – or the federal bailout, as it is commonly known - in a victory for Pres.-Elect Obama who lobbied senators for the release. But in a telling poll released by Gallup, 62% of Americans believe the money should not be released without a better idea of where it’s going.
Why the disconnect? According to CNBC Managing Editor Tyler Mathisen, part of Thursday’s Money Desk, consumers are just not feeling that the bailout is working. The bank stocks that have received the lion’s share of the original $350 billion in funds are still down by as much as 60 or 70% since they got the money! Credit is still tight, banks are still refusing to lend and the economy seems to be worsening – not getting better. Simply put, we are frustrated that this huge bailout (don't forget: funded by us, the taxpayer) has not mitigated the problem.
As John Ulzheimer put it: why should we care about this? How does this bailout affect us, other than the fact that we’re paying for it? Banks are still closing accounts, laying off workers and only lending to the ‘credit elite.’ Consumers aren’t going to turn around on the bailout until they see its effects trickle down to them.
Dr. Doug Hirschhorn, a peak performance coach, credits a general lack of education coupled with fear for the reasons why consumers won’t back the federal government’s efforts to bail out the economy. The fact is, he says, that $350 billion feels like an unfathomable number, but spread out amongst some of the country’s largest institutions it actually isn’t much more than a drop in the bucket. It’s going to take years for the average person to feel the effects of the bailout, he says.
In the meantime, we need to change our collective perception and educate ourselves about what it's going to take to get out this hole so we can move away from the day-to-day fear that comes with another triple-digit decline in the Dow or news of more job losses.
At the same time, we must keep up the noise and pressure so our elected officials, as well as those in control of the private sector, know that when it comes down to it, the recession is only going to end at the hands of us, the consumer.