North Dakotans Wait for Government to Act

Residents doubt the government's ability to solve the financial crisis.

Sept. 30, 2008— -- In Fargo, N.D., the reassuring daily sound of a train speeding to bring local farmers' corn to market is being drowned out by the sound of frustration.

Local talk radio host Scott Hennen has gotten an earful from viewers who called into his show.

"I don't trust -- I just don't trust Congress anymore," one caller said. "It's never the Americans that are the winners in this deal."

Hennen has found his listeners to be both angry and frustrated.

"We're back to the 'Scott Hennen Show,' where you have a voice. Ladies and gentleman, join the club, the common sense club -- get it off your chest," Hennen said to his listeners. "I know you're mad. I know you're ticked. I know you want to throw things at the radio or television or C-Span and say, 'Ugh, how did we get into this position?'"

Fargo locals are annoyed by the government's lack of action and failed efforts to solve the financial crisis, Hennen said.

People are "part disgusted -- part angry -- people are ticked. I think that there is a realization that we have no choice at this point but to do something significant," Hennen said. "A lot of people here feel it's bad government and bad decisions. It's not a failure of the free enterprise system that we are in this pickle -- it's a failure of bad government, and that ticks people off."

North Dakotans consider Fargo as a place of stability in surrounding rough economic times. While the economy has not boomed, there have been no big busts either.

"They say the economy's weak, [but] they haven't come to Fargo," said E.J. Gabel, a local construction worker. "We've got a good economy here, and house prices aren't terrible."

Democratic Rep. Earl Pomeroy said he is trying to keep it this way; he voted in favor of the $700 billion financial rescue plan Monday, which failed to pass in the House of Representatives. But with the failure of the rescue plan, many residents are concerned and apprehensive.

"I'm a little scared," Maryann Nagle said. "I think the times are awfully shaky. And now that they haven't passed the bailout bill -- it's pretty hard to say what the future holds."

Clay Whittlesey said, "People in this area think Congress and the Senate are out of touch with things that are going on."

Nancy Nerland, owner of Moxie Java Coffee, is worried that her small business success will be wiped out by things on Wall Street beyond her control.

"It certainly does scare me a little bit, not a little bit, a lot," Nerland said. "Certainly, you don't want our economy to go any worse than it is."

From her rural farm, Sue Overbo, an antiques seller, hesitated over the bailout.

"If my husband's company were to go down because of gas prices, would they bail him out?" Overbo wondered, questioning the fairness of the government's rescue plan for Wall Street but not of local small businesses.

"I don't feel like it's my job to bail them out when I don't have the money to do it," Overbo said.

For people in Fargo, and around the country, the question lingers: Will the government's rescue plan help them or just make the rich richer? Local Fargo residents are waiting to see if Congress is on their side.