Taxpayer anger threatens bailout plans

A fistful of money

TEXT OF STORY

Kai Ryssdal: Even in normal times, as Paul Kedrosky was alluding to, the economy doesn't exist in a political vacuum. With trillions in taxpayer dollars on the line, the politics can become almost overwhelming. And the news of the AIG bonuses threatens to do just that. Our Washington bureau chief John Dimsdale reports now on prospects for more government help for anybody.


PRESIDENT OBAMA:To protect American taxpayers and to...

JOHN DIMSDALE: At the White House this afternoon, President Obama was at some pain to express his outrage at AIG's bonuses.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Cough, cough, excuse me, I'm choked up with anger here.

Members of Congress who'll be asked to sign off on future bailout money for banks were even sharper in their criticism of the government's aid for AIG today. Politically powerful committee chairmen said the government is rewarding incompetence and recommended that some at AIG be fired. This anger risks undercutting congressional support for future bailout money. The White House is asking for another $700 billion in stand-by aid for banks. Clifford Young with the polling firm Ipsos Public Affairs says Americans are generally opposed to any more money.

CLIFFORD YOUNG: Now this has a lot to do with underlying American values. Americans, compared to most other people around the world, are very anti-government.

But Young says Americans are also very pragmatic.

YOUNG: When you make the case it has to be done in order to get the economy going and the financial system working, close to a majority of Americans are actually in favor of some sort of government fix.

So the challenge for the White House is to rally the anger, but avoid a backlash against a taxpayer-funded rescue. President Obama will try to frame that message before a big audience when he appears on NBC's Tonight Show this Thursday.

In Washington, I'm John Dimsdale for Marketplace.

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