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NEAL CONAN, host:

This is Talk of the Nation. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. After last week's dizzying drop on the market, stock rebound - prices rebounded yesterday and so far, they're down 197 points today, that after the U.S. and European governments announced plans to buy stock in private banks. But if fears of catastrophe ebbed a bit, there is near-universal expectation that hard times lie ahead, more unemployment, more bankruptcies and more foreclosures as the economy shrinks. It's harder for companies large and small to borrow money and many face difficult decisions about layoffs and cutbacks to keep the business afloat. More and more families see credit lines cut, too. So whether the decisions are made at the kitchen table, in the board room, or at your desk, how are you changing your plans for uncertain times? Later in this hour, as the days to the election wind down, undecided voters get all the attention, but writer Ezra Klein argues they aren't really undecided at all.

So, what about you? Email us, talk@npr.org. But first, hunkering down for hard times, tell us about your contingency plans, 800-989-8255, Email talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation on our blog at npr.org/blogofthenation. We begin with Janet Hildrich. We spoke to her earlier this month. She's a partner in the business Tree Lovers Floors and joins us from her store in San Francisco. Nice to have you back. [POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: Janet HILDRETH, not Hildrich.]

Ms. JANET HILDRETH (Owner, Tree Lovers Floors): Hi, Neal. Thanks for having me today.

CONAN: And Janet, the last time you were on the show, your company was, well, facing the prospect of having to cut payroll in half. What happened?

Ms. HILDRETH: Well, we pretty much followed out with that plan. We didn't quite cut it in half, but we did have to layoff, I would say, about a third of our field employees who were all very valuable to us, so it was really a pretty difficult thing to do.

CONAN: I imagine that, so it's got to be one of the worst days of your life.

Ms. HILDRETH: It was. It was very sad, it was stressful. We didn't get much sleep the night before. Up until, you know, the final hour, we weren't sure who we were laying off still because we really didn't want to get rid of anyone.

CONAN: Those decisions are never easy.

Ms. HILDRETH: No, they're not.

CONAN: I wonder, have you been having difficulties with credit?

Ms. HILDRETH: We have been having difficulties with credit because I had - I was pretty well set up with both business lines of credit and a home equity line of credit which unfortunately was with IndyMac. And so, we definitely don't have the credit that we thought we could rely on in times such as these.

CONAN: IndyMac was the bank in California that went under just about a month and a half ago.

Ms. HILDRETH: Correct, and so that was - I had a pretty large equity line of credit. And it was, you know, it was pulled. It was actually frozen but since the company no longer exists, I don't think I'm going to get that back.

CONAN: And how does that affect your business?

Ms. HILDRETH: Well, it certainly forces us to make contingency plans upfront as opposed to when the time comes. So in other words, I've had to really quickly assess all of our spending and all of our expenses, and just start trimming and cutting back as much as I can.

CONAN: And obviously, you want to do that early rather than late. You're thinking about the survival of the business, but when it means you're letting employees go, it's just awful.

Ms. HILDRETH: It's what?

CONAN: It's just awful.

Ms. HILDRETH: It is. It is. And what's worse than that is the prospect of not being able to stay in business at all. And I've talked to several companies over the past several weeks, and it's everywhere. It's not a matter of just making bad business decisions, it's just that's how our economy is. And I don't think a lot of people are talking about it, but when asked, certainly, almost everyone that I speak with, whether it's attorney offices, designers, architects, they're all having layoffs. And I think it's - what I've come to is that we all need to just kind of shift gears a little bit and downshift and make adjustments so that we can get through the hard times.

CONAN: We wish you the best of luck.

Ms. HILDRETH: Great. Thank you so much, Neal.

CONAN: Janet Hildrich(ph), a partner in the business Tree Lovers Floors, with us today from her store in San Francisco in California. Well, obviously, this affects not only businesses large and small, it affects people as well. Joining us now is Liz Pulliam Weston, a personal finance columnist with us from NPR West in Culver City. Nice to have you back on the show, too.

Ms. LIZ PULLIAM WESTON (Personal Finance Columnist, MSN Money; Author, "Easy Money: How To Simplify Your Finances and Get What You Want Out of Life"): Thanks, Neal. It's nice to be back.

CONAN: And we're finding that - people are finding, just families - people with credit cards are finding their lines of credit being whacked by third, by half. This is spreading throughout the economy and into people's personal lives.

Ms. WESTON: It absolutely is. I think we saw it first with home equity lines of credit getting frozen, and we've been seeing credit card companies freezing credit limits, lowering credit limits. Used to be you only had to deal with that if you were behind on your payments, you know, if you were having significant credit difficulties. Now, people who have been keeping up with their payments are seeing this happen.

CONAN: And is there anything people can do to ride out this wave?

Ms. WESTON: Oh, there's a lot of things people can do and that's something we need to focus on, is the stuff that you have within your powers since the larger economy is totally outside your power. Looking at your budget, looking at the ways that you're spending, trying to find ways to cut and put aside some of kind of savings cushion can help you ride this out. If you lose your job, the money is there to help you pay your bills. Even if you don't, it gives you a sense of, you know, comfort, being able to sleep at night knowing you've got that little cash pad sitting there.

CONAN: And first of, the advice we've had heard for the last dozen years has not changed. If you can, pay down the credit card.

Ms. WESTON: Absolutely. Unless you're so far in that you're having trouble making your minimum payments. In that case, you are a good candidate for either credit counseling, a debt management pay-off plan, or possibly bankruptcy. And what I worry about is people who are struggling to pay these debts, who continue throwing money at them when really they can't be paid off and they're going to wind up in bankruptcy anyway. So, if you're in the position where you can't make your minimums, make one appointment with a legitimate credit counselor, they're affiliated with the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, make a second appointment with a bankruptcy attorney so you know you all your options.

CONAN: Whether you're just a family or whether you're a business, small or large, what are your contingency plans? What are you doing as we face uncertain times ahead? Give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email talk@npr.org. Let's start with Donnie, and Donnie is with us from Louisville in Kentucky.

DONNIE (Caller): Hi, Neal. Thanks for having me on.

CONAN: Go ahead, please.

DONNIE: I had - we don't really have a contingency. We don't have the money to have a contingency. Lost our house, lost the business - I was self-employed as a mortgage banker - lost the business, lost the house, I now work for a large corporation that is in the middle of layoffs, and single dad, three kids, and there's nothing left. We're - I'm short every month, and there's no credit cards left. I can't even afford to get an attorney to file bankruptcy.

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DONNIE: So, it's literally, for us, it's less than a paycheck away from being homeless with not a lot of prospects. I currently work one job. I'm in the middle of getting a second job, so I will actually work 40 hours during the day, and then I will work a third shift for 30 hours.

CONAN: And how old are your kids?

DONNIE: I've got an 11-year-old boy and two and twin 8-year-old girls.

CONAN: And obviously, if you're the last hired, since you just got this job...

DONNIE: Yeah.

CONAN: You could be the first fired.

DONNIE: Yeah. The cost of health care has gone up; the cost of food has gone up; the cost of gas has gone up, and it has put us in a position where I honestly don't know - if something were to happen to my current day position, we would be in a homeless shelter. I honestly don't know what to do or how to do it.

CONAN: Liz, obviously, Donnie's near wit's end, but is there anything - any advice you might have for him?

Ms. WESTON: Yeah, it's a heartbreaking situation, Donnie, and I'm so sorry this is happening to you and your kids. First thing, when you mentioned that you don't know if you had enough money to file for bankruptcy, there are less expensive ways to file. I'd try to get ahold of your local bar association, see if there is a Legal Aid Society that can walk you through it just to see if, you know, you might be a good prospect. And most bankruptcy attorneys will give you a free consultation just to see if this is an option for you, so that's something to think about. And worst case scenario, there are food stamps, there are - states have programs to help with child care, so it's scary to...

DONNIE: Trust me, I've gone and applied for those programs, and I make just over the amount to qualify.

Ms. WESTON: Yeah. I've heard that.

DONNIE: So, I'm caught right in the middle. I mean, there's nothing, you know -I need to, you know - basically, I need to lose my job in order to qualify for those programs, which in turn would wipe us out. So...

Ms. WESTON: Yeah. You have to be pretty far down to qualify for food stamps definitely. There are other benefits, though, and I'd go to govbenefits.gov. They have sort of an interactive calculator. You can just start - it takes a while to go through it, but they will dig up all the programs that you might be eligible for that could give you a little bit of a break, in any case. And again, I'm so sorry you're facing all this.

CONAN: We wish you the best of luck, Donnie.

DONNIE: Thank you.

CONAN: Bye-bye. Businesses, of course, have faced difficult times as well, as we heard earlier from Janet Hildrich(ph). Joining us is Todd McCracken, he is president of the National Small Business Association, with us here in Studio 3A. Thanks very much for being with us.

Mr. TODD MCCRACKEN (President, National Small Business Association): Thanks for having me.

CONAN: And the challenges facing small businesses, that's got to be credit -that's got to be right at the top.

Mr. MCCRACKEN: It's right at the top. It's been increasing for, I would say, a year or a year and a half in terms of the problems faced by small companies. And in fact, we have a survey that showed us that two-thirds of our members have said they have been directly affected by the credit crunch before this crisis even happened. So, the freezing of those markets in the last couple of weeks has had a tremendous effect on those people.

CONAN: And have you seen any signs that this is easing?

Mr. MCCRACKEN: There's a little bit of evidence mostly from economists and others talking about what's happening and I haven't seen much evidence trickled to the small business person yet for that, but it will happen soon.

CONAN: And do you send out advice to small business owners or do they call you with, tell us what to do?

Mr. MCCRACKEN: Something of both but, you know, the small business community is so diverse that they really have to take a hard look at where they are in the economy because there are regional differences, there are differences by industry, and this is really a time when they have to step back and really assess, I think, with a very critical eye where they are, where their industry is, where their region is in terms of is this a short term problem that they are facing or is this going to be a long-term road, and that should affect the decisions they make. For instance, we're talking about keeping employees on, which is one of the most difficult decisions a business owner faces in tough times. Well, you know, I would advise people in the main that if they have key employees who are hard to replace, even if we enter a period of high unemployment, they are hard to replace. They should do everything they can to keep those people on board if they have some reason to believe this is going to turn around soon.

CONAN: But a death of a thousand cuts can happen too.

Mr. KLEIN: Absolutely.

CONAN: All right. Stay with us if you will. More on how the dismal economy is affecting you. In a moment, what are your contingency plans? 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. I'm Neal Conan. It's the Talk of the Nation from NPR News.

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CONAN: This is Talk of the Nation. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. We know the economy is lousy, we know many of you are cutting back on spending. Today, we want to go a step further. How is the economy changing your plans for your family, for your business? Tell us about your contingency plans for uncertain times, 800-989-8255. Email talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation on our blog at npr.org/blogofthenation. Our guests are Liz Pulliam Weston, her latest book is titled "Easy Money: How to Simplify Your Finances and Get Want You Want Out of Life," and Todd McCracken, president of the National Small Business Association. Let's see if we can get another caller on the line. This is Phil. Phil is with us from Canyon Lake in Texas.

PHIL (Caller): Hi, Neal. I love your show.

CONAN: Thank you.

PHIL: We're here in Texas. I'm a stay-at-home dad with a six-year-old, and a clay artist. I bring my work to small galleries and sell it, fine art shows, but you know, when the economy dips, those necessities go away. People just aren't up for buying art. And although my wife works for a school district and she has a great position, I'm back in the market for a position as a merchant marine captain, that's my other career.

CONAN: And how is that business going?

PHIL: Well, you know, that business is actually pretty good, simply because, you know, the ships have to come in and the rigs have to be supplied. And it takes a fairly high level of skill and licensing to skipper those vessels. So, there is a demand for if you've got all the right credentials.

CONAN: And I guess you do, but it also means a lot of time away from home.

PHIL: Yeah, it's going to - you know, from me being a primary person at home with my daughter to being gone two weeks at a time and home for one week and then back out again.

CONAN: It's just with two weeks at a time then one week home, that's not around the world cruises or anything like that?

PHIL: No, it's based out at the Gulf primarily, but boy, what a change from, you know, being aboard for 14 days nonstop, you know, as opposed to being able to be in my studio and spend that time with my daughter and my wife.

CONAN: Now, Phil, thanks very much and good luck to you.

PHIL: Thank you.

CONAN: Bye-bye. And I suppose, Todd McCracken, there are a lot of people in his situation. He's right. When disposable income is suddenly not so disposable, people are going to cut back on things like art.

Mr. MCCRACKEN: Oh, absolutely. So, folks who are at all kinds of industries like that or crafts like that had to think about what the likely behavior of people is going to be. But again, it's - we don't know yet whether this is a short-term phenomenon. I think it's pretty clear, we're going to be - have some slow down for a while. But the acuteness of this we're facing right now might get much better in just a few weeks.

CONAN: Or a few months.

Mr. MCCRACKEN: Or a few months. I think that's the real difficulty from a business planning perspective is knowing which it is, and I don't think anyone really knows yet.

CONAN: Let's get to Celeste on the line. Celeste is with us from Lafayette, Louisiana.

CELESTE (Caller): Hi. We're going to do something that might sound kind of crazy, but I figure it can't hurt to try. We're going to put a garden in the backyard. We have lots of sunshine, we can grow stuff year round here, and if push comes to shove, we're also going to buy chickens because it takes three months for chickens to grow up, and we'll start a little chicken yard. And we have friends who did it recreationally, and save a ton of money, and money is what's hurting us. We have a small business that's probably going to dry up, and I'm finishing law school, so we're mostly in debt, not a lot of assets, but that's how we're going to try save money.

CONAN: And what's the business that's drying up?

CELESTE: My husband does corporate (unintelligible). He does - I used to it with him. He does sort of graphic design and big event productions. And, I mean it's that sort of a flub industry. These are very expensive conventions, so I'd imagine that the corporations he works for are going to cut back on whenever things get tight.

CONAN: Should have gotten in that last AIG convention in New York. That was apparently a humdinger.

CELESTE: That was not atypical. I've been to two million dollar, you know, three-day functions.

CONAN: Liz Pulliam Weston, planning a garden, raising some chickens, if you're zoned for it, if it's OK. That seems to me not crazy at all.

Ms. WESTON: Not crazy at all, and it is, you know, not only is it good for helping to reduce the grocery bill, it's wonderful therapy to be out there in the soil, and you feel again like you're doing something, you're taking control. It's a great idea, and good luck with that.

CELESTE: Thank you.

CONAN: Thanks Celeste. Let's see if we can get another caller on the line. And let's go now to Karen, and Karen is with us from Tucson, Arizona.

KAREN (Caller): Hi, Neal. Thanks for taking my call.

CONAN: Sure.

KAREN: First I want to say, I feel very fortunate because I'm a nurse, and it seems even in this tough economy, people still aren't slowing down having babies and that's why I do. So I'm very lucky with that. But my plans are never having to get a loan again. I'm going to pay cash for my next car, and I -unless I have to - unless I want to buy real estate for rental purchase, you know, for rental property. And as far as credit cards, not using them at all unless, again, it's zero percent financing for a year or something like that. But I typically have the money already saved up for that item.

CONAN: Well, you're - that's an enviable position to be in. But, Liz Pulliam Weston, if you can do it, that's what you should do, right?

Ms. WESTON: Well, almost. I would continue to use those credit cards, just use the money that you've save up to pay them off in full every month, because if you expect to get real estate or another loan in the future, you're going to want to have good strong credit scores. To have good strong credit scores, you have to have and use credit. So keep those credit cards active, just don't carry a balance.

KAREN: OK, thank you.

CONAN: And nursing - if you're thinking about going into a career, nursing, you could do a lot of worse than nursing.

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KAREN: Yeah, it's a great field.

CONAN: Good luck to you, Karen.

KARETN: Thank you.

CONAN: Here's an email question. This is from Mark. Any information about how credit card interest rates are increasing, and how that's impacting households and small business? First to you, Todd McCracken, is it going up for small businesses?

Mr. MCCRACKEN: And it certainly seems to be, and not only is the rates going up, but the accesses are going down. And this is pretty critical time right now, I mean, I would agree that it's bad for consumers to get too deeply in debt. But from a business perspective, if you really need to borrow money, it's smart business practice to borrow money at certain times. Right now, for instance, a lot of businesses need to be stocking up on inventory for the holidays, and they often do that on credit because it takes a lot of money upfront to get those goods on the door.

CONAN: Going to take a strong stomach to stock your store for Christmas this year.

Mr. MCCRACKEN: Indeed it is, but you got to have the money upfront to do it, that might be a credit card or that might be other kind of loans drying up.

CONAN: Liz Pulliam Weston, from the consumer side?

Ms. WESTON: Yeah, we've been seeing this. Our readers have been talking about this since early this year. And it's not just that interest rates are being raised on people who missed their payments, it's being raised blanket. Several issuers have gone out there and doubled or tripled people's interest rates. The good news is, if you still have good credit, you can push back. If you have credit scores over, say 720, you can get a better offer somewhere else and they know it. So, if you call up your issuer and say, I don't want to accept this, chances are, if you push hard enough, they will back off or you can take the opportunity to go bankrate.com or cardratings.com, find a better deal and transfer your balance if you have one.

CONAN: Here's another email question on this point from Tampa, it's Patrick. What I found is when a bank lowers my credit card limit, it has a negative impact on my credit score, making it harder for me to get other loans. Why is that?

Ms. WESTON: It's just exactly - he's exactly right. When they close down a line of credit or reduce it, it has a very negative impact on your credit scores, and then that does reduce your ability to access other credit. And it's one of those catch-22s. It's like when they raise your interest rates, then it's harder to make the payments, and you're more likely to fall behind. It makes sense from a business perspective, but from the consumer, it just pushes you farther and farther back.

CONAN: Let's go to John, John's on the line with us from Los Gatos in California.

JOHN (Caller): Hi. How are you? Thank you for taking my call.

CONAN: Go ahead, please.

JOHN: I have a business about three years ago which was doing very well, I was importing FSC certified hardwoods from Brazil and (unintelligible) quantities for U.S companies, and in order to finance that business, I opened up a $500,000 equity line on my personal property, because with the new business, I didn't have a credit standing or the standing bank financing. Well, first of all, of course, the credit line like everyone else that I've spoken to, was reduced from $500,000 down to just over a $100,000 which limited my ability to be able to finance these purchases for my customers.

I had to float these purchases for about 30 days. And then just add insult to injury, the devaluation of the dollar internationally put me in a situation where these types of woods are more expensive for the end user, but most customers were willing to pay 25 percent extra in order to get them and know that they were sustainably harvested and not pirate products. But with the dollar devaluation, I was now asking customers to pay as much as 200 percent more for a sustainably harvested product over a pirate product.

CONAN: So, obviously the lower dollar, good if you're an exporter, not so good if you're an importer.

JOHN: Exactly. So between the combination of the two, I am now out of business, working for a company here in the Bay area that helps people find ecological alternatives to (unintelligible) product.

CONAN: And what were people using that wood for, John?

JOHN: We had customers - oh, fender guitar, Pro-mark drumsticks, there were also companies that were manufacturing homes using the material for sidings. Manufacturing - there were many different - many, many different applications.

CONAN: I wonder, Todd McCracken, if this story sounds familiar to you.

Mr. MCCRACKEN: It sounds very familiar to me. And here's someone who started a business using - place a personal property equity and I am guessing a home equity to it started. And that happens all the time and that's one of my chief worries about how we moved out of this environment because, historically, small businesses start-ups have really led us out of this situations. And people who have been laid off or left for a large corporation for some reason, will start this companies that can grow very rapidly but they have to have resources and is usually the value of their home and their 401(k) plans. And with - what's been happening in those two areas recently that really makes me worry about how those future businesses are going to start.

CONAN: John, good luck to you.

JOHN: On the side note, I just wanted to mention, you know, beyond myself and the problems this has caused for me. Those decertified woods on the West Coast and now declining in use. We were on our way building up, you know, a fairly good industry on the West Coast using these products, and now a lot a of the mills in Brazil that I used to work with are finding it difficult just to stay afloat, so it's really affecting the entire industry globally.

CONAN: Yeah. You forget this are our problems locally, but they have ripple effects around the world.

Mr. MCCRACKEN: We often talk about how the low dollar has help exporters, and we often don't think about the flipside and all the jobs and companies that really thrive around imports. John?

JOHN: When I open my business the exchange rate was 3.4 riyals to a dollar. It bottomed down in about 1.59, and it just started to regain but it's still only, I think 2.13, so it really affected us hard.

CONAN: Any idea that even if things started to turn around it doesn't sound like you could get on your feet again very quickly.

JOHN: Well, without having the ability to finance these purchases for at least 30 to 45 days, which is what I was doing with my equity line, I don't see how it's possible, really.

CONAN: But you did hang on to the house.

JOHN: Oh, I've got the house and the equity is still there, I just can't touch it.

CONAN: John, good luck. Appreciate it.

JOHN: Thank you.

CONAN: We're talking with Liz Pulliam Weston, a personal finance columnist for MSN Money and the author of "Easy Money: How To Simplify Your Finances and Get What You Want Out of Life," and with Todd McCracken, the president of the National Small Business Association. What is your contingency plan, whether that plan is drawn up on the family table or in the board room? Give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. And you're listening to Talk of the Nation from NPR News. Let's get Clinton on the line, Clinton from Homewood in Alabama.

CLINTON (Caller): Yes, thank you for taking my call. Like a lot of people, when I look at my 401(k) and I see what a pummeling it's taking, and I have a company match, I'm wondering if it just makes sense for me to lower that contribution to the company match and take what I would ordinarily put into that to pay off my credit cards, because obviously the interest rate on that is a lot worse than that, you know, I am losing, you know what I am saying, the balance of interest on those credit cards is not being match by any income from my 401(k).

CONAN: So in other words, you're company puts in, what, 10 percent of your salary, something like that and you match it.

CLINTON: My company has a 3 percent match.

CONAN: OK. Liz Pulliam Weston, what's your advice for Clinton?

Ms. WESTON: Well, I am delighted to hear that Clinton is not considering bailing out entirely. Because we have heard way too much of that and that's just a losers game. Most of us need the returns from stock market to have any help...

CLINTON: Just on the short term.

Ms. WESTON: Yeah, exactly. I would and make sure that you're saving enough for retirement with that lower match. You probably won't be if you want to take the risk of lowering it for, you know, a few months to get caught up with the credit cards. That could be OK. Just don't make this a permanent part of your lifestyle to underfund your retirement because you really are going to need that money someday.

CLINTON: Right. But do you think with the present environment it makes a whole lot of sense to put a whole a lot of money into those plans.

Ms. WESTON: Well, you know, there's one way to look at it that we're having a heck of a sale on stocks right now, I don't know if that's true and I don't know if when, you know, when it will bounce back, but in my mind, you stay invested. You keep investing no matter what. And that's what overtime will build your wealth. You keep that discipline of investing. But if you do have high-rate credit card debts, sometimes it can make sense to crank back to where you're still getting a full company match, you don't want to give up that free money. But to put the extra money toward paying down those credit cards.

CLINTON: That's the plan for the time being.

Ms. WESTON: Yeah. And I would - like I said, I wouldn't make that a year's long process if you're talking about reducing your contribution for the next five years, I wouldn't do it. But if you're talking about just a few months to try to get caught up, that can be, you know, that can be an OK way to do it.

CLINTON: OK.

CONAN: Clinton, good luck. And Liz Pulliam, I have to ask you, both of the presidential campaigns at this point you're talking about saying that, well, you're going to have penalty-free withdrawals from your 401(k) temporarily to $10,000 or something like that. Again, some people may face or may find themselves in such - well not yet - but they may find themselves in situation where they may want to do that, but you point out people are going to need that money someday when they retire.

Ms. WESTON: Yeah. It is such bad idea to take money out of a retirement account prematurely, and the penalties are actually the smallest part of the cost. I mean, first you're paying income taxes on those withdrawals. But even worse, you're losing the future tax-deferred returns, you could have earned on that money. And if you figure, you got 30 years until retirement, every thousand dollars you take out now, is going to cost you $10,000 in lost future retirement income. If you got 40 years till retirement, you're losing $20,000. So the younger you are actually the worse idea it is. A lot of young people think they can just make it back. But it's because of that wonderful value of compounding over time, you really get hit if you take that money out. So, I wouldn't encourage it. I tried to find some other way to pay the bills other than raiding those retirement accounts.

CONAN: And Todd McCracken, quickly, small businesses is of course, the engine of our economy. I am sure you have people who are thinking up great ideas right now and wondering should I start a business now because, you know, if I did get it going, it will prosper.

Mr. MCCRACKEN: Yeah. Not just starting the businesses, but also for existing businesses, they have all kind of plans for expansion or new markets they want to enter. You know, in this kind of environment, all of that is on hold waiting to see of what's going to happen. And so, to some extent, the economic decline becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy because that kind of behavior. But it is certainly what I would advise right now for people.

CONAN: Todd McCracken, thanks very much for your time.

Mr. MCCRACKEN: It's good to be here.

CONAN: Todd McCracken, president of the National Small Businesses Association with us here on Studio 3A. Our thanks is well to Liz Pulliam Weston, a personal finance columnist with us from NPR, Weston, it is always good to talk with you.

Ms. WESTON: Likewise, Neal, thank you.

CONAN; Coming up next, we're going to be talking about, well, after months of campaigning, attacks ad and rebuttals, how can anybody still be undecided, if you are, give us a call 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. We are going to be talking with the writer who say well, undecideds don't make that much difference and well, they're really not all that undecided when you come to think of it at the end anyway. Give us a call. I am Neal Conan, stay with us. It's Talk of The Nation from NPR News.

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