Agence France-Presse – “Obama, McCain demand more from Wall St rescue deal”

Obama, McCain demand more from Wall St rescue deal

Agence France-Presse | September 20, 2008

The White House rivals Saturday gave qualified welcomes to a huge government bailout of Wall Street, driving home their own ideas to bring relief to both busted financiers and “Main Street.”

After the US government said it wanted a green light from Congress to buy 700 billion dollars in distressed mortgage assets, Barack Obama and John McCain both said they would study the deal and work across the political aisle.

But bitter differences on the road to the November 4 election were also exposed as Obama accused his Republican foe of wanting to “gamble” away Americans’ life savings and deregulate healthcare at a time of market crisis.

Obama spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the Democrat would be working with the US administration and Congress to ensure the plan relieves hard-pressed workers and not just company bosses and shareholders.

Obama wants the eventual package to be “part of an overall plan not just for Wall Street but for Main Street, that it protects taxpayers to the fullest extent possible, and that it helps homeowners stay in their homes,” she said.

McCain said: “This financial crisis requires leadership and action in order to restore a sound foundation to financial markets, get our economy on its feet, and eliminate this burden on hard-working middle-class Americans.”

Pledging also to review the full document and eventual changes ordered by Congress, McCain touted his plan for a “Mortgage and Financial Institutions” trust following a raft of hefty government bailouts of tottering companies.

Such a trust “would proactively resolve troubled financial institutions, enforce discipline on management and shareholders, and minimize the burden on the taxpayer,” the Arizona senator said in a statement.

Propelled by discontent at Republican handling of the economy in light of the financial crisis, Obama matched his record high of 50 percent in the latest Gallup daily tracking poll, against 44 percent for McCain.

McCain pursued a new line of attack in blaming the financial hurricane on fraud at US mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which are among the collapsing companies now taken over by the government.

By extension, McCain said in his weekly radio address, Obama was at fault as he was a major recipient of campaign donations from the two companies and “did nothing” to sound the alarm about their “festering problems.”

But at exuberant rallies in the retirement haven of Florida, a battleground state that decided the 2000 election, Obama noted McCain’s career-long belief in market deregulation before the Republican switched tack this week.

Obama observed that in the current issue of “Contingencies,” the journal of the American Academy of Actuaries, McCain touts his plan to fix the US health care crisis by injecting a dose of Wall Street competition into insurance.

“Opening up the health insurance market to more vigorous nationwide competition, as we have done over the last decade in banking, would provide more choices of innovative products less burdened by the worst excesses of state-based regulation,” McCain wrote.

Addressing a sea of more than 12,000 people in Jacksonville, northern Florida, Obama said: “So let me get this straight — he wants to run health care like they’ve been running Wall Street.

“Folks, let me tell you, we don’t want to go there. That’s a risk that America can’t afford,” he said.

“And I’ll protect Social Security, while John McCain wants to privatize it,” Obama added, pressing home a message of particular resonance to women voters as he pushes back against McCain’s vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin.

“Without Social Security, half of elderly women would be living in poverty — half. But if my opponent had his way … millions would’ve watched as the market tumbled and their nest egg disappeared before their eyes,” Obama said.

“So I know Senator McCain is talking about a ‘casino culture’ on Wall Street — but the fact is he’s the one who wants to gamble with your life savings. And that is not going to happen when I’m president of the United States.”

The McCain campaign angrily denied he would “privatize” America’s Great Depression-era retirement benefits, but said he wanted workers to have the choice of investing their state pensions in bonds and other “safe” vehicles.


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