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Criticizing bailout use isn’t productive
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TEXT OF INTERVIEW
Steve Chiotakis: There’s been a lot of criticism lately about banks taking government help. And then doing what they’ve always done: corporate junkets, sponsoring athletic events . . . acting all “corporatey.”
Apparently, some in Congress don’t like bailout money going to anything frivolous. But Fortune Magazine’s Allan Sloan says there’s nothing frivolous about boosting the overall economy.
Allan Sloan: People are angry. And I can see why people are angry. You know, they’re losing their jobs, they’re seeing people — including maybe themselves — getting their houses foreclosed on. And you hear a story about, you know, some evil company that has taken government bailout money and is off in some fancy place having a sales meeting, and it makes people angry. And I understand that.
Chiotakis: So what does the government then do to stop people from getting angry?
Sloan: Well, I mean the long run is you’ve got to fix the economy, but that’s not going to happen, God knows, any time soon. What would be helpful is if the government actually decided to treat the people in this country like grown-ups instead of like children who need to be indulged and fed something. Now, I know a lot of people in the executive branch of the government are in fact grown-ups and they know how the world works. But in this environment, I don’t think any of them dare — which is their failing — to get up and say look, we know you find this offensive, but if we’re ever going to get our money back and these companies are ever going to function, there are certain things they do. And one of the things they do is have sales meetings.
Chiotakis: So how then does this affect the entire company?
Sloan: Well, it affects the economy indirectly, because if you assume that the companies we’re talking about are important, which is why they’re getting bailout money, right? And if you get in their way and make them less profitable, you’re hurting in the end the chance for these companies to lend more money or to expand or . . . and to earn enough to pay back the money that they borrowed. And let me hasten to say that I am not some shill for corporate America. I’m the guy who’s always finding problems and writing about tax dodgers and things like taht because that’s what I do. But even to me, this turning every private plane trip into some sort of asocial act, you don’t really accomplish anything except to vent and make people less forthcoming with the government, and less inclined to be involved in anything that involves business trusting the government. And that’s not a good thing.
Chiotakis: Fortune Magazine’s Allan Sloan. Allan, thank you.
Sloan: You’re welcome, Steve.