If economic bailouts are even to continue, they need more controls and more regulation, members of a Chattanooga Times Free Press panel said.
Erskine Oglesby, 53, argued that a major priority should be managing the remaining money in the federal government’s $700 billion bailout fund.
“They allocated that initial $350 billion and now nobody seems to be able to account for it,” he said.
Mr. Oglesby was one of six who participated in a panel to discuss what President-elect Barack Obama should do early in his administration. Panelists identified a number of issues as priorities for Mr. Obama to tackle quickly, but the bailout money and shoring up the faltering U.S. economy emerged as most important.
Mr. Obama has asked Congress for the second $350 billion in the $700 billion bailout package approved last year, but has guaranteed more controls.
Panelist Bonnie Cooper, 58, called the bailout “a great idea that went bad.”
“My hope for the Obama administration is some regulation and control,” she said.
Ms. Cooper, who called herself a victim of outsourcing, hopes the new administration could help her and others who have had to deal with high interest rates and dwindling savings.
“The financial institutions are ripping us off,” she said
Terry Olsen, 35, said the Obama administration needs to stop the bailouts.
“I think you have to let the market correct itself,” Mr. Olsen said.
Some companies may even need to fail, he argued.
“This is not a bad thing that’s happening. We need to bleed a little bit,” Mr. Olsen said.
Allowing companies to fail would be a hard to sell to laid-off employees, he said, but the pain that’s currently in the U.S. economy will produce innovation and new types of industry.
Michael Blank, 35, brought up another reason why some businesses should be allowed to fail: to stop the practice of giving CEOs huge salaries and severance packages.
“If we don’t allow the companies to fail that keep doing that, they won’t stop doing it,” he said.
It isn’t just CEOs who are causing the problems, though, said John Roark, 25. People also need to start living within their means, he argued.
“We want all these things. We want Xboxes, we want a new car, we want a home we can’t afford,” he said.
Rachel Harper, 23, countered that lots of people are simply trying to get by. She advocated a stimulus to go directly to the people rather than just a few banks.
“We as taxpayers need some way to get by, because right now, nobody’s hiring anybody,” Ms. Harper said.
Mr. Obama has proposed an $825 billion stimulus plan which would include a $500 tax cut for most taxpayers and create jobs to help rebuild the nation’s infrastructure — roads, bridges and transit systems.
Mr. Oglesby said that plan is “gets us started moving forward.”
But Mr. Blank said the stimulus plan projects pose challenges, too.
“Any infrastructure improvements are going to be one of two things,” he said. “They’re going to either be quickly implemented and poorly planned or take a long time to implement and be well-planned.”
Video: Debate panelists discuss presidential debateFor the presidential debate from Nashville on Tuesday, the Times Free Press hosted a panel discussion at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Members of the community and students watched the debate on television and then afterwards shared their views.