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What we need is restored confidence

Allan Sloan is a senior editor-at-large at Fortune

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

Scott Jagow: Last week, the Brookings Institution held a panel discussion on the issue of confidence in the economy. This is part of series designed to give President-elect Obama feedback as he takes office. The panel's moderator was our very own Allan Sloan from Fortune magazine.

Good morning, Allan. What did you take away from this discussion?

Allan Sloan: Well, what I learned from the panel was that there are actually two kinds of confidence. One is somehow, we as a country have to convince the foreigners who have been lending to us for years and are now going to be asked to lend a few trillion more to keep lending to us. And the other thing is some sort of confidence that the people in Washington are capable of leading us out of this problem. And if you're a person from Mars looking at this, you say there's no one in charge, and that's a bad thing.

Jagow: Yeah, well if you're a person in Topeka, Kansas, you're thinking the same thing probably.

Sloan: And I'm even from the East Coast, in the former capital of finance, New York. The capital of world finance as we now know is Washington, because that's where all the money is coming from. I've been around for 40 years covering this stuff, and I've seen a whole batch of crises. And there was generally a sense that there was someone who could bring it to an end. And now, there's no one in Washington who I can think of that can restore the confidence that used to reside in these institutions.

Jagow: Well, what about President-elect Obama? I keep hearing from people overseas that maybe he's the one that can help restore confidence.

Sloan: I hope that's true. I hope somebody can, you know, get credibility and do what I guess Franklin Roosevelt did, sort of calm people down and restore confidence.

Jagow: What's one thing you think would help restore confidence right now?

Sloan: Candor would be helpful. Where either the guys leaving or preferably the guys coming in would say, hey look, we've got real problems here, and they're going to get worse before they get better, here's what we're going to do to get out of this -- we're going to share the pain. We're not going to keep doing the thing we've been doing, which is we been bail out the companies, and then the companies then fire thousands of employees. This is a joint enterprise and we have to do this together.

Jagow: Allan Sloan from Fortune Magazine. Thanks.

Sloan: You're welcome.

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