An Open Letter to Oprah Winfrey RE: The Bailout

Dear Oprah, 

Please pardon my tardiness in finally writing this letter to you. I am writing regarding an episode which aired on Oct. 3rd, 2008. It was an “open Friday” episode, where you bring people on to talk about the news of the day. The episode largely concerned the (at the time proposed, now passed) federal bailout plan. You and your panel’s discussion of the bailout disturbed me greatly. You and your panel on the subject, Ali Velshi of CNN and Suze Orman of CNBC discussed what the credit crunch was, why it was a problem and why a bailout was proposed. 

But then, inexplicably, you and Mr. Velshi began to sell the American public on this bailout plan. Quoted from your website:

People were phoning their congressmen and congresswomen saying, ‘We don’t want you bailing out these fat cats,’ because the perception was we were helping all these guys on Wall Street and they were going to get richer and richer even though they’d done all of this to us,” Oprah says. “But it’s really all of us who are going to be affected.” 

…Ali says that if the bailout doesn’t get passed, credit will get even tighter and more jobs will be lost. “Inadvertently, we’re going to have to help Wall Street to get the money trickling down to you, because that’s the system through which money flows,” he says. “But there’s a real reason to be angry.”

Still, the task at hand should be to fix the problem instead of wasting time blaming Wall Street, Ali says….

The insinuation here is that the bailout package as proposed is the only way to help Wall Street. The discussion centered only on the plan being necessary quickly, not the details or larger ramifications of it. Nor was there any questioning or criticism, perhaps there were better ways to distribute tax payer funds. Why not renegotiate the mortgages first, then buy the derivatives? Why free up $700 billion all at once instead of releasing it in increments? Those are just just a couple of questions that could have been asked. Lastly, “blaming Wall Street” as Mr. Velshi puts it, is exactly what we should be doing. If we do not analyze and determine where the system broke down, how are we to fix it? 

Instead you took your air time and exceptional influence and simply sold a plan instead of explaining it. I found the entire approach demeaning and insulting, particularly coming from a multi-millionaire who has a vested interest in keeping the Dow high. Now, I in no way am accusing you or Mr. Velshi of collusion. I think in an effort to explain a large complex problem quickly things were simply over simplified. But if citizens are going to make rational decisions as to whether or not to support a piece of legislation that will double the national debt, ALL the facts should be brought to bear. It was disappointing and upsetting to see your show become a propaganda tool. 

Perhaps pushing interviews with Gwen Ifill and Maya Angelou, both women I respect and admire, off the agenda to afford more time to discussing this very important item would have given you more time to explain the entirety of the issue. It is my sincerest hope that we will be able to explore legislative issues like this on your show in more depth in the future.

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