Last stops on the 'Road to Ruin?'
TEXT OF INTERVIEW
Kai Ryssdal: This is Marketplace, from American Public Media. I'm Kai Ryssdal.
I have no idea what the rental car bills are going to be -- big, probably -- but today's the final stop for our Tess Vigeland and Amy Scott after a very long haul. They've been on matching trips trying to find out what rest of the country thinks about what is happening on Wall Street and how that's affecting their daily lives.
Tess, you drove the farthest to get here, heading East from San Francisco -- so you go first. What's your takeaway here?
Tess Vigeland: Well, you know, we launched back -- what 10 days ago -- at this point, it seems like absolutely forever ago given what's happened since then on the financial markets. And at that time, everybody was talking about the bailout package. But within a couple of days it was . . . so we had moved on to well, OK, what's it going to do for us? Is it actually going to fix the problems? And there is still a sense, I think, out there, that the wrong people got bailed out? You know, Kai we talked earlier this week about my dinner with the Landis-McKibbin family and 35-year-old Melissa McKibbin I think has a nice wrap-up of the issue of responsibility of this mess.
Melissa McKibbin: I don't know a person who couldn't spend less or watch their money more carefully. However, at the same time, to look at the other end of that spectrum and watch the obscene amount of gross spending, of fiscal irresponsibility, and that at end of the spectrum gets a bailout, I got to say, I hold a grudge against it.
Vigeland: And I would bet that that's a pretty pervasive sentiment, especially since that bailout so far has done pretty much nothing to stem this market rut.
Ryssdal: Amy, you came west from Chalotte, N.C. How'd it go for you?
Amy Scott: Well, I also started out hearing a lot about the bailout -- anger that Wall Street was getting away with it, but also some hope that it might do some good. But I also found that people were a lot more concerned right now with what was going on in their communities. In Pittsburgh, I met Crystal Jones. She was shopping with her mom at a fish market and she was mostly concerned about the price of gas.
Crystal Jones: I used to run to the grocery store just for some bread. Now I have to make sure I have a list. You know? I can't just run out because it just doesn't work like that anymore.
Scott: Now Jones drives an SUV, and when we talked it was costing her about 80 bucks to fill up her tank, though that's probably come down a bit since then, partly because people like her are driving less.
Ryssdal: Tess, what was the most surprising thing you found out there?
Vigeland: I think what I found, and again we really have to kind of stress how unscientific this is here, but there is such a disconnect between what is apprehending on a global scale and what is happening on a family and individual scale and the amount and the sense of panic that is so different there. Yes, people are watching the markets; they're hearing about the credit crisis; they're worried about their 401-K's; but they're going about their business. And they're so confident that this too shall pass. One of the last places I visited was a barbershop in Jefferson City. Rich McCarty owns it, and you know, he's 64 years old and, you know, he says -- seen this before and I'll probably see it again.
Rich McCarty: I mean, worrying about my money ain't gonna do me a thing. I mean, it might give me an ulcer and then I'll have to pay a doctor. I mean, there's no reason to worry about it 'cause none of us in here can do anything about it.
Ryssdal: Amy, same question. How about you?
Scott: Well, I also didn't see a real sense of panic out there. But I did come across some people who were feeling this crisis quite directly. Morton McArthur owns a used car dealership in Cincinnati, and it's a business that is directly squeezed by the tightening of credit because so many people borrow money to buy cars. McArthur says he may have to close down if things don't pick up in the next six months.
Morton McArthur: I'm not even buying any more cars right now because they're not selling. Cars depreciate. I would rather wait until I see that the banks are trusting each other, loaning each other money, loaning money to customers and also people that do have money are not hoarding it.
Scott: Now, I should stress that despite all of this, like Tess said, McArthur is also very optimistic about his business. If he has to pack it up now, he plans to try it again when the market comes back.
Ryssdal: Amy Scott is our New York bureau chief. Tess Vigeland hosts our personal finance program. It's called Marketplace Money, you can hear it on the weekends. Tess, Thanks a lot. Amy, thank you.
Scott: Thank you, Kai.
Vigeland: Thanks, Kai.