Worries, fear and anger consume Colorado’s 4th CD

Betsy Markey listens to voters at a town hall forum in Loveland talk about their fears about America. (Photo/Jason Kosena)
Betsy Markey listens to voters at a town hall forum in Loveland talk about their fears about America. (Photo/Jason Kosena)

LOVELAND — When Democrat Betsy Markey booked a town hall meeting in Loveland Wednesday to talk about the economic bailout, er, rescue plan, she probably expected to say more than the couple of sentences she was able to squeeze in, between a barrage of questions and comments from a group of about 50 people talking about the worries, fear and anger they have over America’s troubled economy and the credit crisis that caused it.

At one point Markey, who is running a close race against three-term Republican Rep. Marilyn Musgrave for the 4th Congressional District, handed her microphone into the crowd, who passed it around during the hour-long forum.

Does she support spending so much money? Why should taxpayers save the wealthy who erred? Who is looking out for Main Street America?

Their rhetorical questions have no real answers. Can they still afford their home mortgages? Who can America blame for the crisis that has endangered the well-being of so many? Why hasn’t government worked for them?

As America teeters on the verge of what some call an economic collapse, waiting to see if Congress passes a $700 billion bailout package to help secure Wall Street, both candidates in the 4th CD, one of the most closely-watched races in the country, have taken a similar position on the hottest campaign topic this election cycle. When a version of the bailout package failed in the House on Monday, Musgrave voted against it and Markey indicated that she didn’t support the measure. Both said they didn’t think the bill did enough to protect taxpayers. Both expressed anger over a system that failed America.

“I am very concerned about the situation that we find ourselves in and I’m also very frustrated with the greed and bad judgment on Wall Street that’s put us in the situation,” Musgrave said in a town hall-style teleconference last week. On CNN’s Larry King show Monday night, Musgrave said she voted against the plan because it did not protect taxpayers and didn’t address the root of the problem.

“This is a very serious day and what I am thinking about is the American taxpayers,” Musgrave said, expressing a need for a restructuring of the mega-giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. “We’re going to have to work hard, no partisan bickering and no finger-pointing. We need guarantees that the taxpayers are not going to be on the hook.”

On Wednesday, the Senate passed a financial rescue plan for Wall Street; the House will reconsider the retooled package today. Colorado’s two senators, Ken Salazar and Wayne Allard, split the vote, with Salazar, a Democrat, voting in favor and Allard, a Republican, voting against.

“I think at this point we have to understand that this is a crisis situation and that something has to be done to get credit moving through the markets again,” Markey said Wednesday night.

Although the Senate was on the verge of voting on its version of the bailout bill Wednesday night during Markey’s town hall, the Fort Collins Democrat said she hadn’t seen the bill yet and couldn’t say whether she supported it or not.

Political experts agree the economic collapse facing America is not an easy crisis for candidates in close election battles to gauge, Colorado’s 4th CD included. Voters are largely against the idea of using taxpayer dollars to bail out wealthy executives who made poor decisions. They have flooded congressional offices with calls and e-mails opposing the action in recent days. The result on Monday was a clear trend of House members in both parties who are in close election battles voting against the measure.

But after Monday’s failed vote in the House, and the stock market tumble that followed, which liquidated nearly $1.3 trillion in American wealth, people are now starting to worry that without the bailout their future could be at risk. As public opinion shifts, so does Congress, as seen Wednesday night when the Senate passed its version of the bailout bill by an 84-15 margin.

With the bill now coming back to the House for approval, exactly how could the vote affect Musgrave and Markey? Well, even the closest observers say they aren’t sure.

“It’s not clear to me how the bailout will affect either one,” said Colorado State University political science professor John Straayer. “The voters are split between “no” and “hell, no,” except they really aren’t. It is outrage against the fat cats juxtaposed against deep worry about falling markets and thus threats to retirement accounts. So, how does an average cat balance that? What it will produce is statements which say: I deplore the bailout but we need it.”

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