January 31st, 2009
09:00 AM ET

Dear President Obama #12: Keep our fears at bay

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Reporter's Note: The day before Super Bowl Sunday is traditionally known as “Free Kick Saturday” in the White House because of a long tradition of inviting citizens to attempt a field goal through makeshift uprights across the street in Lafayette Park.  Not really, but it would be cool.  The President has asked for advice, thus my continuing series of letters.

Tom Foreman | Bio
AC360° Correspondent

Dear Mr. President,

So glad the weekend is finally here!  You’ve had me working quite late with all these programs you’ve been launching and frankly I can use the break.  Not like I’ll get one.  The elder daughter has a speech contest all day Saturday; I’m going to a father-daughter dance with the younger one; throw in some work around the house (I swear those Christmas lights are coming down,) take everyone to church, and Bob’s-your-uncle, it’s Monday again.

Oh well.  You and I can’t complain.  We both have good jobs, and so many other folks don’t these days.  U.S. companies announced more than one-hundred-thousand job cuts this week.  I’m no economist, but that seems like a lot, and on top of all the jobs we’ve already lost, it’s the kind of thing that casts a chill over even the most confident household.

Fear is a terrible thing.  It leads people into rash decisions, unnecessary conflicts, and the kind of panic that can ruin lives.  Just watch any of those old slasher films: Every time someone gets scared and ought to call the police, instead they go traipsing through the campground in their nightclothes saying, “Sarah?  Sarah?  Is that you?”  Next thing you know, Johnny-Knuckle-Head-With-An-Axe is running them down and the whole theater is screaming.

My point is: As President, you are the one who has to convince us not to panic and do something foolish, even if you privately are afraid of what might be coming.  I know you’ve been in what seems like an endless cycle of meetings about this economy, and I’m sure you’ve heard some hair-raising predictions.  But I’m also sure you’ve heard some hopeful ones.  If history is any teacher, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

FDR famously talked about fear, and he had it largely right.  I say largely, because sometimes “fear itself” is not the only thing we have to fear; old Mr. Chambers behind the wheel of his ’72 Vega merging onto the Beltway, for example; that’s something to fear.  Or another Rosie O’Donnell special.

Still, you’ve got to be the guy who at least keeps our fears at bay; convinces us that, even when you make mistakes, you have our best interest at heart and some idea of where the maniac with the chainsaw is hiding.  In the midst of so many people losing their paychecks, that’s your job.

Call when you have some time.


For more of the Foreman Letters, click here.

soundoff (19 Responses)
  1. Charlotte

    I agree with those of you that talk of fear being a terrible thing. However, we have an entire society under at least 35 years old who don't fear or for the most part know what's going on. Many have lived through short periods of layoffs in the family, but nothing like what we're facing. They are expecting to find jobs in a week or two. They don't know bad times. They terribly need understanding of this crisis!

    February 1, 2009 at 3:39 pm |
  2. Faith B. Terrell

    Thank you,

    I recently sent an email mentioning that 'President Obama is the epitome of Americana.

    February 1, 2009 at 2:40 pm |
  3. Waheeda

    I want to leave a comment for the President and the nay sayers of the United States...Let him do his job, @ least he's trying and he came into this with a long to do list because the past White House left him a clean up list. He's overwhelmed with what he has to do and what he has to fix! Every day I turn on the news, Especially AC360 ( I love you Anderson) I hear when is he going to do this and fix that!! Damn! give him some time, The Republicans gave Bush 8 years to destroy everything and now they want President Obama to fix it in 3 months!! give him a break and help him to succeed!!

    February 1, 2009 at 1:00 pm |
  4. CindyR

    What a great idea, I hope our new President is actually getting your letters as their is some real common sence in the suggestions. I really love the idea of having every day people join in on the conversation and have a seat at the table. They had a briefing book idea prior to his taking the oath. However, we have not heard anything more on that. PIcking a person and bringing them into a meeting and having the people at the table explain it to them is a great idea. Hope our President is listening.

    January 31, 2009 at 8:56 pm |
  5. ted

    hey, no to std's, no to smoking cessation, no to parks, no to birth control, no to fed office renovation, who are these idiots? this plan is absurd; and I thank the Republicans for seeing thru the bull. get a grip. ted

    January 31, 2009 at 8:47 pm |
  6. ted

    hey, the obama I voted for is not the one who is appearing on the stage. Everyday I see all these nusisance programs for millons of $ and none of it is in the emergency vernacular. Get a Grip Obama; we are barely surviving out here. my business is dependent on discretionary spending, gone, so; that leaves soc. sec, thankfully, but not nearly enough to survive. I have an immediate need of 5k and I think everyone on ss has the same need. hey brakes, rotors, and tires will put my end of the economy going...then , hey, food. ted

    January 31, 2009 at 8:30 pm |
  7. Jean-Claude Bensoussan

    Dear Mr President,
    In your new lending regulation for the housing market, you must impose a "same rate rule" to lenders, whether they lend to good or bad credit borrowers. Today, lower credit score means higher rate, which increases the chance to go to foreclosure without giving additional guaranty to the lender. All borrowers purchasing a home as a principal residence should be at the same level once they are approved by lenders. Such would trigger needed bank competition while reducing greatly foreclosures.
    Jean-Claude Bensoussan
    Los Angeles

    January 31, 2009 at 8:08 pm |
  8. joan cairney

    I love this idea.
    “Free Kick Saturday”

    January 31, 2009 at 7:30 pm |
  9. Jacqueline (Dorchester MA.)

    Dear Tom,

    Your letter reflects the many worries being experienced by Americans. Our current economic state puts a lot of things into perspective, most importantly teaching us to live in a way that allows us to be prepared for the unpredictable future.

    I remember my first job after college in 2005. Every Friday after work I would make my way to the mall to pick up a new dress for that weekends bash. My father, a working class immigrant, whose owned about 10 pairs of shoes since I have known him, would often say, "America is changing; do not think only about today." Being young, inexperienced and full of that thing I call the American spirit, I would laugh at him often while hanging up another dress amongst many.

    Today I can look back and say, my dad was right. The America I knew in 2005, that felt economically safe, secure and strong, seems weak, and unpredictable. Unfortunately, I am so unprepared.

    Tom, I understand your call to the commander and chief; however, I also think this is a time for self-evaluation. For us to all think about the way we live today and what that means for our future. Instead of relying on the president to have some idea of where the maniac with the chainsaw is hiding, we should all have an individual escape plan. In my case it could have meant one less dress a month.

    January 31, 2009 at 6:53 pm |
  10. Leslie F Sammon (CMsgt, USAF, Retired

    The Stimulous Package
    Use the money to make loans to individual and consolidate and pay off their credit cards. These loans would be payed back to the government at a 5-7% interest rate, could be controlled by the IRS .

    Example: Someone has $35,000 in credit card debt....Pay the creditor 70% of this debt and clear the individuals accounts....now the individual has a loan from the government of $24,500 @ 7% FOR 6 YEARS.. Monthly Payments would be 417.70....

    -This would put money into the banks, giving them the money they need to make loans

    – relieve the debt of the individual, giving them money to spend on housing etc.

    -insure that the money is payed back to the government

    January 31, 2009 at 5:54 pm |
  11. Alex (Aliso Viejo)

    Lovely letters!! and amen again! 🙂 I just adore CNN's and AC360's diversity and creativity.

    January 31, 2009 at 4:19 pm |
  12. Louie - Pittsburgh, PA

    Edward Markey, Dem. Representative from Mass. has let it be known that we are exporting 1.8 M barrels of oil a day around the world. We are importing 1.4 M barrels from Saudi Arabia. It's time to keep our oil here & tell the Saudis to eat their oil. We could stop all oil imports from them this very moment and still produce enough here at home. We need to talk to Canada, Mexico, Venezuela, Ecuador and Brazil about buying more oil from them and stop our dependence on Mid-East oil.

    January 31, 2009 at 1:36 pm |
  13. Amanda Walton-Ontario Canada

    Have a great weekend Tom, sounds like you have a full dance card. Enjoy the quiet time you do have, Monday's always come fast.

    It's interesting how you speak of fear, the old saying "you have nothing to fear but fear itself", yet sometimes a bit of fear is a good thing. Keeps us on our toes to always look before crossing the street, or swimming out to far knowing we may have trouble getting back to shore. Fear keeps our little ones safe, and has us listen to our instincts when things seem amiss.

    You are right, we can't live on fear and need a strong presence in all our lives to keep our fear at bay, yet I sit here in a comfortable home ready to move into a new life I chose not one forced into and one with comforts. I live in a country not as hard hit as the U.S. even if we are next door and our future seems to be slowly being pulled into the undertow.

    I don't live the fear where my childrens next meal is coming from or a warm bed for them to sleep in, so fear for me is something I would create in my surroundings more then a fear of what waking today will bring for my family.

    I pray for those who live in fear in my own country as many live with these daily fears, even if I don't see them. I pray for those who live in fear in the U.S. and around the world of how they will survive another day and I pray for those who live in fear they may never live to see peace in their region.

    So for me to quote " you have nothing to fear but fear itself" is easy for me to say, I hope the President releases the fears of everyday people and lift the fear that peace will never come. That is a big weight to put on the President's shoulders, but his confidence and determination seems to take the fear out of us all and give us hope with each new day that dawns.

    Have a great weekend Tom, and Stay Safe

    January 31, 2009 at 1:30 pm |
  14. Lilibeth

    Tom, I love your letters. I really hope he reads them. LOL!

    Edmonds, Washington

    January 31, 2009 at 12:54 pm |
  15. Phil, Scottsdale Arizona

    Mr. President,

    Seems to me that when the Wall Street Boyz paid themselves $18 Billion in Bonuses.....................that the US Treasury and the applicable State treasury where the bonuses were pais also reaped a huge windfall. The US. Treasury would have gotten at least $7.2 B in Payroll taxes from Withholding on these bonuses and the State would have received over $1 Billion in P/R withholding taxes........so it would seem to me that we already recovered almost half the money they paid out.....??? Don't you agree ??

    January 31, 2009 at 12:37 pm |
  16. Sandra Robertson, Ga.

    Good morning Tom. Many of us, who are fortunate to keep our jobs at certain companies, work harder, extra hours, with very few breaks, to take up the slack of employee layoffs. We are tired, but do not want to complain for the simple reason we are blessed to have a job. I am employed at a physician's office working with billing and medical transcription, and I feel the fear and can see the dwindling cash flow, due to the fact patients are asking physicians to have them come back for routine examinations at a much later date, due to lack of personal funds. More and more patients are also finding it difficult to pay for medications. So we have more serious illnesses requiring more than just a trip to the doctor’s office. I would say to President Obama, do something and do it quick, for Americans are suffering. Talk is cheap we need action and need it now.

    January 31, 2009 at 11:09 am |
  17. Linda Strasberg


    That was well stated.

    January 31, 2009 at 9:55 am |
  18. Joe Manuel Real Estate Broker Michigan

    Borrower Rate Reset to 3% will be like a Magic Wand to the Economy

    We all recognize that the United States economy is paralyzed and it would take trillions of tax payers dollars to re-kick started. My idea will change and turn around the economy in 3 month instead of a decade.
    The president need to order the banks to have a mortgage rate reset for every borrower in residential, commercial, industrial and investment real estate from the current rate to three percent (3%) This reset to be effective within 30 days after the president orders it into law and it should be for next 5 years. Some negative impact but the positive will over power the negative.
    Increase cash flow, this will increase spending and saving to retirements
    This will be an incentive for home owners to stay in their homes and save their property from foreclosure.Banks will reduce the inventory of properties that are being taking due to default.
    Less stress on government paying out stimulus packages

    January 31, 2009 at 9:48 am |