Middle Americans unite against the great bank rescueGo To Original
Willie Benway, 45, a Bush-voting truck driver with a Harley-Davidson jacket and a faded blond goatee, has little in common politically with Sharon Valentine, 60, a retired English teacher and self-confessed "woolly liberal". On the subject of the $700 billion bank bailout plan, however, both are on the same page.
"It's goddamn un-American," Mr Benway said as he leant against his pickup outside the Thrift Store in Richfield, Minnesota. "We don't give money to companies. We're not France - yet." For Ms Valentine, sitting in a nearby mall: "Congress was right to vote the Bill down. It doesn't tackle the root causes or help the people that need it."
In Richfield, a typical middle-class surburb of Minneapolis in the heart of the Midwest, Americans from across the political spectrum found something to gripe about when it came to the bailout.
"I literally had thousands of e-mails asking me to vote no on this," said Congressman Tim Walz of Minnesota, one of 95 Democrats who opposed the Bill on Monday. "I've never seen anything like it in my two years of Congress. Folks just didn't want it."
Three of Minnesota's eight members of the House of Representatives voted against the Wall Street bailout Bill on Monday. Two were Democrats and one was a Republican. Michele Bachmann, the lone Minnesota Republican to oppose the Bill, issued a statement calling it "rushed, unworkable and short-sighted".
During Monday's debate, the ultra-rightwinger read into the Congressional record a piece from Investor's Business Daily putting the blame for the mortgage crisis on a Clinton-era rule change. This, it was claimed, had pushed the mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac "to aggressively lend to minority communities" so that home ownership could "open the door for blacks and other minorities to enter the middle class".
On the other side of the aisle, the Democrats Mr Walz and Collin Peterson gave different reasons for voting against the plan. Mr Walz, who is locked in a competitive race for re-election, struck a populist tone: "My job is to protect the American taxpayer and this plan doesn't go far enough in looking out for the middle class. It doesn't go far enough to hold Wall Street accountable."
But there is also the risk of fallout should the warnings of impending economic catastrophe come true. According to a Washington Post poll released this week, 47 per cent of Americans opposed the Bill. Nevertheless, almost nine out of ten expressed concern that the bailout's failure could lead to a more severe economic decline.
"I keep hearing that if we don't put in all this money then people will lose their jobs," Randi Hansen, 26, a waitress at Richfield's only bowling alley, said. "I'm really worried about it. My friend has already lost her house and I can't afford not to work now. I'm a single mother and I have $50 a month to live on."
Tim Dyksman, 38, who was laid off from a warehouse business in nearby Edina six months ago, said: "It sucks that big bosses get bonuses while the little guy gets screwed."
Many people yesterday afternoon were still absorbing the shockwaves coming out of Wall Street.
As ever in Richfield, some people were finding comfort in their faith. "It's interesting to see what's going to happen," said Jean, an elderly lady who declined to give her second name. "But the Bible says that we'll get through the bad times by trusting in the Lord. That's what I'm going to do."