Hoosiers Give Lawmakers an Earful Over Bailout

Lois Nadler, a retired bank vice president from Indianapolis, is so outraged by the proposed $700 billion bailout of the financial industry that she did something unusual for her: She contacted her congressman and her senators.

“The government should let the financial markets take care of the problem,” Nadler said. “They got themselves into this, and they can and will find a way out.”

Lawmakers are getting an earful from constituents as they figure out how to handle the financial industry rescue plan the Bush administration says needs to be approved by the end of the week.

“People are mad,” said Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., a member of the Senate banking committee, which heard testimony Tuesday from Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.

Bayh said he has received more than 1,400 calls and e-mails from Indiana constituents, a high number but not a record for his office.

“They have a right to be mad. I’m mad. We shouldn’t be in this position, and the taxpayers need to be protected,” Bayh said.

The office of Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., declined to say how many calls and e-mails he’s received. But Lugar spokesman Andy Fisher said Hoosiers contacting the office are not supportive of the financial industry rescue plan.

“Like my colleagues, my phones have been ringing off the hook,” Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said at a Tuesday hearing of the Senate banking committee. “The sentiment from Ohioans about this proposal is universally negative.”

One Ohioan, Art Sullivan of Westerville, a suburb of Columbus, drove to Washington on Tuesday to give Brown a typed letter outlining his objections to the plan.

“People in Ohio are unhappy about it,” Brown said. “People know that the Paulson way of looking at it would reward the firms who are a big part of why we are here.”

Rep. Mike Pence, one of the first members of Congress to come out against the proposal, has gotten more than 300 calls opposing the plan and only nine in favor. The more than 500 e-mails the Columbus Republican’s office has received on the issue are similarly overwhelmingly opposed.

Rep. Andre Carson, D-Indianapolis, has received calls from about 100 constituents, most of whom opposed the package or voiced concerns about it.

Lisa Duell, a registered nurse and mother of three in Noblesville, said she contacted her senators and Rep. Dan Burton, R-Indianapolis, for the first time because she wants to make sure they remember the taxpayers.

“It is so much money. I can’t even wrap my mind around that much money,” Duell said. “This is my kids’ future. Don’t think I won’t notice where the money went.”

Bayh said a way to keep the plan from being a “bailout” is to include mechanisms that would give taxpayers an equity stake in a company equal to the amount of the government subsidy.

“If the program works, the taxpayers haven’t lost anything. If it turns out that a subsidy has actually been provided, then the taxpayers will be made whole for the amount of that subsidy,” Bayh said. “People don’t want a bailout, and we shouldn’t have a bailout.”

Within hours of launching an online petition against the bailout Wednesday, the conservative advocacy group FreedomWorks collected hundreds of signatures.

A signer from Louisville, Ky., wrote: “No bailout ever again. Shame on Bush. Stop the socialist takeover now.”

A woman from Kokomo, Ind., wrote that everyone is struggling. “I have been looking for help with no avail, so why do I have to struggle more to bail out the big dogs who are partially to blame for my house payment doubling?” she said.

FreedomWorks spokesman Adam Brandon said it’s difficult to keep tabs on the issue as the situation is evolving swiftly, but the group hopes to deliver its first set of petitions to Capitol Hill by the end of the week and to send its members to local congressional offices.

“If we can delay the bill a few days into next week,” Brandon said, “we have a legitimate chance at derailing it.”