Woe is the plight of the investment banker and the free market capitalist stricken by the economic crisis of late, according to sentiments expressed by audience members in attendance at a speech given by U.S. Senator Bob Bennett last week.
Comprised mostly of Septuagenarian women decked in tweed, floral prints and brightly colored sweaters, the audience of about 20 was invited to meet with Bennett in SC 206a on Wednesday, Oct. 22 at 2:45 p.m. Bennett was also scheduled to speak to a group of students on campus in LA 101 at 4:00 p.m.
Bennett arrived some 25 minutes late and after a very brief introduction from the president of the Utah County Republican Women’s Club, stated that he had no specific agenda other than to “take the time while congress is out, to move around the state and get a sense of what it is that people have on their minds.” In her introduction of the third-term senator, Madame president, dressed in a jungle-print, rayon jacket and blouse combo, sporting an immaculate dye job and a haute couture take on the standard grandma bouffant hair style, related Bennett’s earlier description of the event calling it “a very casual fireside chat.”
“And we like that, don’t we,” she said, referring to Bennett’s use of LDS jargon.
Despite Bennett’s seat on the Senate Banking Committee, the 75-year-old senator has been maligned of late by his constituents for supporting the $700 bil. Federal bailout of Wall Street. Bennett indicated that he has recently received an increase in letters expressing disapproval and in fact, some online replies to a Sept. 29 article posted on ksl.com go so far as to call Bennett a “socialist traitor” and promise to oust him from office, should he run for re-election.
Preliminary murmurings circulated about the room, in the minutes prior to Bennett’s arrival, expressed a general expectation for Bennett to account for his strong political support and subsequent votes in favor of the bailout package. Although, Wednesday’s crowd seemed less disdainful of Bennett, it was clear that they also did not approve.
“So what is it that you have on your mind and you’d like to talk about,” Bennett asked after apologizing for his late arrival. “And you get to start.”
The first inquisitor, after expressing her deep concerns for the economy, the national debt and the general health of the free market, asked of Bennett, “How do we restore the free market?”
“My son’s an investment banker and hedge funds [sic] and he said ‘mom, I can’t know how to wisely invest for my clients with the government managing it. The free market is dead,'” she said.
In response Bennett expressed the need to first briefly explain the ‘why’ of the bailout to better understand what direction he feels the country should go next.
“I’ll tell you that when chairman Bernanke, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, came to the leadership of the congress his opening statement was ‘I have run out of tools,'” Bennett said. “Which is kind of a sobering thing coming from the head of the largest bank in the largest country in the world. And his second sentence was ‘We have four days before the entire structure seizes up.'”
Bennett characterized the problem as a crisis of confidence and explained that he felt the consequences of not passing what he said his “Republican handlers” have instructed him to call the “Fiscal Rescue Package, because bailout doesn’t sound so good,” would have resulted in an abrupt and catastrophic halt to lending across the economic spectrum. He continued saying that the impact would have hit ordinary Americans-small business owners and employees, the ones who do not have any Wall Street investments-the hardest.
Seeming to perceive the mood and particular sensibilities of his audience, Bennett spent half an hour attempting to alleviate the anxieties of the audience members by assuring them that the current crisis is neither a turning point in economic policy making nor a permanent change in how the U.S. treasury department deals with the national banking system.
“We are not in the process of nationalizing any of these institutions,” Bennett said. In his later speech, Bennett
Bennett went on to detail the limitations placed by congress on the emergency powers granted to the secretary of treasury and the assurances included in the bill that the potential taxpayer profits which may result as the paper securities acquired by the federal government reach maturity, would not be spent on “social programs.”
In his later speech, Bennett re-characterized such use of funds as being “spent in the normal governmental fashion.”