Economic woes touch students

Many students interviewed on campus this week said they feel removed from the deepening financial crisis on Wall Street, but those who work on Capitol Hill are at the center of the storm.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell almost 800 points Monday afternoon when the House of Representatives failed to approve a landmark bill to save the troubled credit market. Out of the 35 people interviewed on campus Wednesday, most said they were not directly affected by the situation.

“I haven’t been listening much,” freshman Mike Taylor said. “But I heard that it got shut down in the House. That’s the last thing I’ve heard.”

But GW, whose student body has been recognized for its political activity, also has plenty of students witnessing the historic decisions firsthand.

Max Bernas, a junior, works for Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., and said the senator’s office received more than 2,500 calls regarding the bailout on Wednesday.

“It’s just nonstop,” Bernas said. “It’s been really difficult because I don’t have a yes or no answer to give. I only have a statement saying we are working on it.”

Bernas said he has worked normal hours but that a large number of staff were kept for overtime.

“I have a friend in another senator’s office that even stayed overnight,” Bernas said. “It’s certainly busy.”

Bernas said he personally thinks the media’s constant coverage of the financial crisis has made some people overreact.

“I’m not reacting the same way,” Bernas said. “I’m not as bent out of shape about it.”

Sophomore Dan Carman began interning in Rep. Bryan Higgins’ office, D-N.Y., several weeks ago. He said his intern duties appeared “pretty standard” until the bailout bill was introduced last week.

“Things in the office have become much more chaotic,” Carman said. “Phones have been ringing off the hook and people are always running in and out of the office.”

Carman said Hill staffers have been putting in extra hours to deal with the bailout.

“I was able to go home,” said Carman. “But most of the important people in my office were here all weekend working.”

Junior James Lyons works in the office of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who has made the bailout a top priority on the campaign trail.

“Right now, there’s a lot of mail and a lot of calls about the bailout plan,” Lyons said. “I think working on the Hill has made me more attuned to what’s going on. That’s what all the conversations in the cafeteria are about.”

Henry Zhang, who works in the office of Rep. Scott Garrett, R-N.J., said he spent much of his time Tuesday answering phone calls from angry constituents.

“The people opposing this bill really outnumber the people who favor it; it is like 10 to one,” Zhang said.

While a majority of students interviewed around campus Wednesday said they were apathetic, some were eager to share their general opinions about the weakening economy and the effects it will have on them and their families.

“I think we will be fine in the future economically. It just seems that public opinion is they don’t want their tax money going to this bill,” junior Mark Shesser said. “It has been portrayed by the media as a bailout, when it is actually a sink or float situation – it’s not that drastic.”

Some students said they were optimistic about the chances this downturn will provide in the future.

“It could be very good for me, as a freshman, because a lot of these cycles take three or four years,” freshman Nat Perkins said. “So right when I get out of school the market will becoming good again.”

-Sarah Scire contributed to this report.

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