Earlier today, Kathryn posted a link to the video of CNBC’s Rick Santelli giving voice to what he described as a groundswell of discontent over the president’s new mortgage plan. I caught up with Santelli just moments ago and talked to him about what he says has been “kind of a crazy day.”
National Review Online: Were you expecting anything like this reaction?
Rick Santelli: Not at all, not at all. It was just, after 48 hours of listening to hundreds of people trying to approach me on floors, on trains, everywhere, the opinions were almost unanimous, and I just tried to pick up that thread. The pits weren’t open at the time and the traders that were on the floor getting ready for the opening all started to gravitate to where I was talking, and it just took on a life of its own.
NRO: When we posted a link to the video, we were swamped with e-mails in support, including a couple from traders at the Board of Trade in Chicago, who have been saying right on. How have the e-mails that you’ve been getting, how have they been running?
Santelli: I’ll be honest with you, I think I’ve gotten somewhere between 850-900, and I think I had three that were negative.
NRO: What are that small group of critics saying? Where do they think you went wrong?
Santelli: They thought I was uncharitable, got up on the wrong side of the bed, had no compassion for people who are going through rough times, and that isn’t at all the issue. The issue is, you can’t pick out 8 or 9 percent and give them things that weaken the 90 or 92 percent who are carrying the water. You need to come up with legislation that may help the people that need it but not hurt the people that… listen, my 401k’s a 201k, my kid’s college tuition is going up 10 percent. This is tough for everybody. Maybe a tax break, maybe everybody who has a house gets something. They need to quit picking winners and losers, and they have to quit alienating the classes. You have to figure out a way to float all boats, and I think that’s where the administration has gone wrong, and I think that’s the nerve I hit.
NRO: You were also skeptical of the original bailout plan, specifically the way that it seemed to be a “Let’s rush through this and figure out the details later” kind of approach. Do you think your predictions on that have been borne out by events?
Santelli: I remember this all started roughly in the summer of ’07, and at that point, that Halloween that followed in ’07, I think I said something like, Frankenstein derivatives aren’t going to be resuscitated. These bad positions are going to hang around until they’re taken out. As an ex-trader—I traded for 20 years—bad positions don’t go away. There’s not enough money for many of these banks to sell them, because of what it does to their balance sheets. At the end of the day, whether it’s housing or whether it’s toxic derivatives, I just don’t think you can spend your way into correcting something that’s going to be painful and make it not painful. So I think I’ve been kind of spot-on in many ways as to the spending plans.
At the end of the day, it’s simple. A lot of the president’s advisers are saying that there’s a multiplier effect to the government money, and it’s over one. Now if that’s true, then the government should spend non-stop for the rest of our lives, because we’ll get a positive return. And it makes no sense.
NRO: Right. And now it seems we passed this bailout bill without specifying any of the details, it’s kind of become a blank check, and they say that Barack Obama can do something like 80 percent of his homeowner-assistance plan without even asking Congress. So how do you think that plays out in the future?
Santelli: I guess in the end, I believe in the founding fathers, and I believe that in America… the pursuit of happiness and to work hard and keep the fruits of your labor is something I believe in. And I’m not saying we should forget people who need help. But at the end of the day, Americans are strong and they’re charitable. I think what they have a problem with is that it’s force-fed via the government.