The economy and working people
Taxi drivers in Washington DC coping with hard times discuss what the government should do
MATTHEW PALEVSKY, JOURNALIST, TRNN: In the wake of the Bear Stearns bailout, all three presidential candidates have provided new proposals to address the mortgage crisis and the weakening economy that many have already defined as a recession. With rising prices and stagnant wages, how is this economic crisis affecting working Americans?
Union Station, Washington, DC
March 28, 2008
TADESA, WASHINGTON TAXI DRIVER: [inaudible] taxi driver communicating with the average American of every ethnic, educational, and economic backgrounds, that is the first worry people have today. The fact that we are paying as taxi drivers $3.50, you know, for a gallon of gasoline and the service costs, you know, everything is going higher while we are making, relatively, the same amount of money for the last ten, twenty years.
TAKALE, WASHINGTON TAXI DRIVER: Yeah. This time is kind of slow; like, the last, like, two, three weeks it’s kind of slow. Hopefully [sic] the gas prices went up. I think that affecting us as well.
PALEVSKY: Do you know anyone who’s lost their house?
TAKALE: Yeah. Yeah, I know friends of mine, like, two, three of them, they lost because of this gas prices went up, and they couldn’t afford their mortgage, and they lost their house. For individuals, you know, if they fix, like, what do you call it? That’s two years, one years, [inaudible] mortgage, if they fix that, you know, it would help for so many houses. You know.
HALID, WASHINGTON TAXI DRIVER: Yeah, the prices have been going up, you know, the gas; prices; the food prices; everything is more expensive. So it’s definitely, you know, we have changed our habits to accommodate that. All the money has gone outside for our troops and for the wars, and I think that’s why, you know, the currency, the dollar is dropping. So–
PALEVSKY: Do you think the US government can do anything about it?
HALID: I believe so.
PALEVSKY: What can they do?
HALID: By bringing the troops home. Simple as that. I think that that will put the country on the right track. I do believe so.
PALEVSKY: Do you think it’ll help the economy?
HALID: I think so. Yes.
TED, WASHINGTON TAXI DRIVER: Look at cost of living.
TADESA: [crosstalk] The cost of living going higher.
TED: Cost of living, everything going up: gasoline; housing; even groceries; stamps. Everything going up.
PALEVSKY: What can government do about it?
TED: Government? They have people that their specialty is just to work on that, like, economists, guys like the Fed, okay? You see, this is inflation right now. They have to give people raise to meet up with inflation.
PALEVSKY: Why do so many Americans borrow?
LORENZO, WASHINGTON TAXI DRIVER: Part of the American dream, to try to keep up with the Joneses, trying to get the next bigger car and the next bigger house.
PALEVSKY: Why is that the American dream?
LORENZO: It’s what we were taught as a child: get a house, family, and a car, white picket fence; and you buy into it. And today, credit cards is the biggest thing you can—the biggest thing is debt. Banks supposed to make money. Look at the school system: to go to college, you got to get in debt.
PALEVSKY: And people are making enough to buy the dream without going in debt.
LORENZO: You can’t. Stuff is just too high nowadays.
PALEVSKY: And why aren’t people making as much as they used to? People used to be able to afford the American dream without borrowing so much.
LORENZO: NAFTA. NAFTA.
PALEVSKY: Why NAFTA?
LORENZO: All the jobs going overseas. What’s made in America nowadays? Cars. That’s about it. And they’re not going too well. Japan is making better cars than America is.
TADESA: You know, people are becoming very submissive. This has to go, or, we will continue to have the same economic problems, political problems, our standing in the world, the image of the United States, and so on.
SHAMBU, WASHINGTON TAXI DRIVER: When the news is bad, everything is bad. On the other side of that, somebody’s making some money.
PALEVSKY: But are you making that money?
SHAMBU: Oh, I’m learning to be just like—I’m learning to follow in the footsteps of those guys. Anyway, when they bailed out Chrysler, that was a bailout didn’t help them.
PALEVSKY: But what about homeowners? Should they be bailing out homeowners too?
SHAMBU: No. You know, everybody make their own choices out here, and that’s what happens. You know. But it’s fear and greed. Supply and demand; fear and greed.
PALEVSKY: Most of the taxi drivers I’ve spoken with today don’t expect politicians to solve their financial problems, but few hesitate to put at least part of the blame for this economic crisis on the current administration. This is Matthew Palevsky, Washington, The Real News.
Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.