ELKHART, Ind. — Msnbc.com asked residents of the Elkhart, Ind., area to send us their questions for President Barack Obama, who is visiting Wakarusa on Wednesday, the third time he will have visited the region as president. We received 1,000 responses from across the nation, most about the economy and health care. Msnbc.com will ask the president some of the questions during a short interview Wednesday; his answers will be posted here and broadcast on NBC News.
Here is a sampling of the questions in general. Scroll down to read about residents’ fears of losing health insurance and not finding work and even one query about the Obama girls.
1. With the stimulus coming to Elkhart, who decides how the funds are distributed and why are they going to roads and runways instead of long-term jobs that will put money back into the economy?
— Bart McGlinsey, Elkhart, Ind.
2. While I do appreciate the work done to improve the economy, what lasting and real benefits are you anticipating for those of us going into college? This year, I’m headed off to my freshman year at IU and once again, they have raised tuition and room and board, so the cost is becoming a very real issue. In the coming year, how do you foresee making higher education (both at an undergrad and graduate level) feasible for all students? Also, where do you feel higher level education factors into the success of the economic recovery?
— Kae Grossman, Elkhart, Ind.
3. If the big companies and the banks are being given a fresh start and public money, why doesn’t the government bail out the ordinary individual as well by giving out at least $5,000.00 or 10 percent of income to each taxpayer so as to force demand as people will have money to spend on either saving their houses or new ventures or buying new things, therefore fueling the market. Or alternatively force the credit reporting agencies to wipe the slate clean so people can borrow this money that you are giving out and make the economy go around instead of only giving the money back to the same places that squander it. Initially, albeit slowly, more than a trillion was siphoned out of the system; then Bush put back a trillion; then you came in with almost another two trillion; isn’t that feeding and enriching the same people without catering for the people on main street? Wouldn’t it be better to give the people their money in their hands and let them dictate supply of desired goods and services as clearly the make-up of the economy has changed with this digital and Internet age.
— Muki Ndabambi, Indianapolis
4. Why is the FDIC shutting down banks without letting the stock holders get at least some of their money back? Like Cooperative Bankshares did (stock symbol COOP).
— Edward Penn, Indianapolis
5. This is a question that has been asked before, but with the recent C.A.R.S. program’s outcome, I think it is relevant again. The $1 billion program was drained almost before it started. I would say that this shows that the American people want and need to spend money, if it were only available to them. With the size of the program, the translation would be something around 250,000 automobiles sold, pumping a LOT of much needed money into the economy. For the $1 billion spent, easily $3 billion was added to the economy. I would think that demonstrates that one of the best ways to stimulate the economy is to put more money in the hands of the people that need it.
A few states are increasing taxes. People are still losing jobs by the hundreds of thousands. Do you think maybe the recovery could be helped along by giving people a chance to keep or get back more of their money so they have more to spend?
— Duane Smith, Milan, Ind.
6. My question to Obama: When are you going to do something about unfair trade that is the real reason our economy is in such bad shape? Ever since Bill Clinton signed the NAFTA trade bill, the economy has been getting worse. Unfair (so-called free) trade is not free. It is very costly in terms of lost American jobs. Why can’t we emulate the Chinese, Japanese and other countries and regulate trade to our benefit? Why does Congress feel it is wrong to help America? An American citizen.
— Jim Mosier, Indianapolis
7. I want to know where the help is for us working-class Americans? If we didn’t live on a farm and grow the majority of our own food, we would be starving. But we still can’t meet our monthly expenses anymore, even with us both working outside the home full time.
— Name withheld, Moores Hill, Ind.
8. With the economy in INDIANA the way it is, WE THE PEOPLE wonder a GOOD reason for the so called CZARS, all of the departments already have someone in charge!!! If they are not capable why are they there?? Where is money coming from to pay them??????? How about passing that money around Elkhart and Kokomo???
— Name withheld, Delphi, Ind.
9. Mr. President, my question is this: How is all your proposed spending going to actually help the economy? My great-great-grandchildren won’t even see this country out of debt yet. I was looking forward to becoming older and retiring, but now that is fast becoming just a fantasy. I don’t understand how any of this is going to boost our economic situation or make things any better. With half of us Americans unemployed, no one is going to spend their stimulus money. We can’t afford to do that when we don’t know if we will still have a roof over our heads tomorrow or if our cars are going to be repossessed. I mean, call me crazy, but maybe I just can’t fathom how a national debt of $11.4 trillion (don’t have a clue how many zeroes that is) is considered progress.
— Name withheld, Indianapolis
10. Why we are wasting all of our time and effort by constantly trying to “bail the water out of the boat” instead of simply “fixing the holes”?
It continually escapes me as to why we don’t just fix those ever-expanding holes that are increasingly gaining on our “bail-out” efforts.
It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out here that — if we were to apply permanent patches to seal those holes — our boat would no longer be in danger of sinking and then our efforts could be readministered to strengthening that boat so as to head off any future threats to our boat’s safety. Hint: President Lincoln inadvertently gave his life after initiating THE most successful effort in our American history to “patch those holes.”
— Dan Williamson, Columbia City, Ind.
11. Have you ever had to reconcile your bankbook?
— Virginia Henkaline, Indiana
12. Hello, I have been very puzzled by this for some time now. I have even submitted a question on the recovery Web site (of course with no reply lol). Why when we bought our first house in October 2008 that we now owe $7,500.00 to the IRS, but three months later you get $8,000.00 and no repayment. Believe me, the economy was no better in that three-month period. And I just believe it is wrong.
— Craig Edgar, Indianapolis
13. Going into your presidency, you stated that the United States had the worst economy since the Great Depression. Recently, both yourself and Vice President Biden have stated that you didn’t realize just how bad the economy was. How is this possible? Were we in a depression? Also please explain how raising taxes on anyone during a deep recession is going to help the economy turn around, and please cite examples of when this has worked in the past.
— Scott Ferguson, Indiana
14. Why are taxpayers providing benefits for politicians that they cannot afford to provide themselves and their families?
Why does the cost of everything continue to rise except our pay, but somehow the Government NEVER runs out of money or ideas to spend money? In fact some of us Americans have taken cuts in pay to keep our jobs.
Why are the states being threatened with Federal funding for lack of cooperation in certain matters when that very funding comes from THE PEOPLE of the State in the form of taxes?
When will the Government start cutting back spending like THE PEOPLE have had to do in their homes and lives? Where and what are the cut backs in Government?
— Linda White, Markleville, Ind.
15. Why isn’t the administration or Congress focusing on helping the states more in their economic recovery plan? Many states are unable to pay unemployment and Medicaid benefits. Bailing out businesses isn’t having an immediate or direct effect on U.S. citizens. However, bailing out states would.
— Anita Selig, Carmel, Ind.
16. I would like to know what improvements you see happening to and in Elkhart.
Why was $4.2 million allotted to a private airport? What business is that going to bring in?
What can you do to help the multifamily housing industry from going bust here?
Why wouldn’t you have split up the stimulus money so that the people could pay off their debts to the big businesses from going belly up?
I could use some stimulus money. I don’t qualify though because I am still a struggling employed person who hasn’t lost everything yet. How do I keep from losing everything on a one-income basis UNTIL my husband does get to go back to work?
Why are big businesses coming in ahead of the people of this country? I thought that was what it was all about with Mr. Obama!
— Jennifer Holderread, Elkhart, Ind.
17. I would ask him what he has been hearing from other governments around the world about the global financial climate. Are we the worst hit? If not who is?
— Chris King, Osceola, Ind.
18. Your health care proposals are going to be the death of small business in this country. We own a small business, and if we are forced to provide insurance for everyone, we will be forced to close our business of 32 years!! That is a fact, not fiction. If we asked our employees if they would rather have a job or have us pay their insurance — what do you think the answer would be? You simply cannot put this burden on the backs of small businesses along with the increases in taxes and increase in unemployment taxes we are having to pay.
— Sharon White, Carmel, Ind.
19. Hello Mr. President. Why don’t you just push the health bill through and stop letting those hardheaded Republicans try and stop what most of us voters wanted? If President Bush was still in office do you think he would give a hoot about Elkhart or any other county for that matter? We the voters have faith in you and your administration.
— Kenneth Cowan, Seymour, Ind.
20. What about Visteon? We lost our prescription insurance, and had to go to AARP. What a disappointment. Of course they say it is government run. Now Visteon goes to court on the 15th of this month and decides if we lose our health insurance and our death benefits. This was part of our benefits when we were working. This is not right. They will give the companies millions of dollars to keep them. What is right about it? If they need that much to be kept, get rid of them. We need our insurance and Mr. President, you want to help folks. Now is the time to prove it. It seems nothing you have done has added up right. We need your help now. This is part of the health plan. Keep it for us. It is part of our agreement with the company. This makes us feel sure the health plan is wrong, because a lot of others have and will lose the insurance they already have. You know realistically, if you can keep your insurance, we should be able to keep ours too. How would you feel if your insurance was in question? It is scary. We worked many years for this and now they can throw it out of the promised plan. What about those of us that have sickness? Will they be able to get insurance when this is dropped???? Tell me!!! Mr. President, can you possibly see this picture, and intervene for us???? Seniors have always been a backbone in our country, and now they seem like nothing. Also, this is a nation that still stands for the Ten Commandments and “In God we trust,” and we worship God. I’m sorry about how you believe, but we love God, and we hope you will get the book the “5,000 Year Leap” and it will help you see why we are so proud of our flag, and the Bible, and our FREEDOM. Please understand, we realize you are different, but as long as we stand for God and our American flag, our economy will come back good. But so many are fighting what is right and God may be angry. Please see this picture. Companies getting our money, and we end up without insurance and death benefits. So much more we could say, but just look at this and help us, we know you can. It is in your hands. Remember you are the president. Thank you for listening. We pray for our country, and our president and those in office at the White House that God will open their eyes, and help them to see to do right. We are real proud of Mike Pence. He is an Indiana man. Thanks MS.
— Marilyn Saylor, Richmond, Ind.
21. I am disabled and my wife cannot work to afford insurance. Does the health plan cover her for taking care of me?
— Randy Sparks, Terre Haute, Ind.
War in Iraq
22. Since the war in Iraq has drained the United States, when can we just say enough is enough and let Iraq take care of itself?
— Name withheld, Bloomington, Ind.
23. Why do you put your faith in charter schools and why are public schools not allowed to run like charter schools?
— Name withheld, Hobart, Ind.
24. Since unemployment has increased since last winter, why do you think the stimulus package is working?
— Name withheld, Elkhart, Ind.
25. If you agree that 70 percent of jobs in this country are created by small business, what role does government play as an employment entity? This questioned is asked in light of apparent increase in government job hiring while private business is generally downsizing. What does that say to state and municipal government units that outsource functions to private industry in efforts at cost savings and efficiency?
— Name withheld, Goshen, Ind.
26. Where are the jobs that your incentive package is creating? All I have seen is more jobs lost and now a talk of tax increases because of all the monies being spent.
— Name withheld, Evansville, Ind.
27. All of us here have been hit hard — we took a 3 percent pay cut to avoid layoffs at the local hospital (I’ve worked here over 18 years) and see our income purchasing less. My adult children are either unemployed or only have part-time jobs, two are back living at home. My fiance is disabled and on a fixed income. How are we going to make ends meet this winter when gas, natural gas and other necessities are out of control?
— Beverly Paul, Elkhart, Ind.
28. What is your plan for unemployed people who have exhausted their benefits? You have told us that the economy is going to take a longer time to recover than expected, so what is the plan to get the population to that recovery date? Will the federal government spend more money to replenish the benefits plan for the unemployed workers? What is the plan for states to get benefits for the unemployed?
— Name withheld, Argos, Ind.
Life in White House
29. How are the girls doing with the dog?
— Sue Wood, Rolling Prairie, Ind.
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