Barack Obama and John McCain discussed plenty during Friday night's presidential debate in Oxford, Mississippi, and while political pundits and both candidates' respective camps spent much of Saturday attempting to decide just who won the thing, there was one area in which neither candidate distinguished himself: relating issues to young voters.
So when MTV News sat down with Obama for his first interview following the debate, we attempted to change that, asking him how one of the biggest issues of the day — Congress' proposed $700 billion bailout aimed at stabilizing the U.S. economy (which was rejected by the House of Representatives Monday) — affects the average young person, who may not have the most robust financial portfolio but certainly has plenty to lose in the crisis.
"Well, we don't know what [the bailout is] going to look like yet, but I think for young people who are paying attention to the headlines now and wondering what this means ... we've got to do it the right way," he told Sway Calloway during a campaign stop in Greensboro, North Carolina. "If we don't do it, it will have an impact on everybody, especially the next generation, because if the economy slows down, they're the ones who are going to have the toughest time finding a job."
Obama said that an economic collapse would have implications far beyond the job market — basically every aspect of daily life would be impacted in some way.
"If the credit markets collapse, what it means is banks aren't lending businesses money. Businesses then can't invest in plants and equipment, and make payroll, so they shut down. And that means the suppliers of those companies, they shut down. Over time, what happens is you get the whole economy coming to a standstill. That's what happened during the Great Depression," he explained. "And at that time, it was just banks that were in charge of capital. Now you've got all different ways that money flows ... but the bottom line is, that if money freezes up, businesses can't do business, and you get an enormous contraction of an economy. And that, ultimately, will affect that 20-year-old, because that 20-year-old is going to be looking for a better job after he gets out of school. ... If our businesses aren't creating jobs, they're not creating tax revenues — now it's harder for government to finance that college education or to build that new university. So it has a ripple effect."
And while he said that action must be taken soon, he also urged caution, saying that the proposed money must not go toward "bailing out CEOs" and that every assurance should be made that those footing the bill — American taxpayers of every age — should be able to get their money back.
"We have to make sure that we structure it in a way where, if taxpayers are putting a lot of money out there, they can get it back. That if they're buying up bad assets, that when those assets raise up and recover, that there might even be a gain to the taxpayer," he said. "But that's not going to happen if we've got the same economic policies that got us into this mess in the first place. We should not have had a system where people were allowed to go crazy, borrowing other people's money, investing it in all kinds of speculation, with questionable assets, knowing that as long as the party is going good, that they would gain all the upside, but when things crashed, suddenly somebody else is going to pick up the tab. Somebody should've been minding the store, putting regulations in place."
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This story was originally published on 9.27.08 at 10:58 p.m. ET