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Obama Urges Action for Wall Street -- and Main Street, Too

Updated 8:11 p.m.
By Dan Balz and Robert Barnes
CHARLOTTE -- Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama called today for speedy, bipartisan consideration of the Bush administration's $700 billion economic rescue proposal, but cautioned that any final deal must offer protection to taxpayers and homeowners as well as to Wall Street.

"As of now, the Bush administration has only offered a concept with a staggering price tag, not a plan," Obama said at a campaign rally this afternoon. He added that, "in return for their support, the American people must be assured that the deal reflects the basic principles of transparency and fairness and reform."

Obama said a combination of greed and unfettered free markets had brought the country to "a perilous moment ...a financial crisis as profound as any we've seen since the Great Depression."

In his remarks, Obama offered general support for bipartisan action but said he wants to know more about the details.

Sen. John McCain, the Republican nominee, criticized his Democratic opponent for not being more specific in how he would solve the financial crisis.

"I proposed a plan for comprehensive reform of the broken institutions that allowed this crisis to become a grave threat to our economy,'' McCain told the National Guard convention meeting in Baltimore. "Senator Obama has declined to put forth a plan of his own. At a time of crisis, when leadership is needed, Senator Obama has simply not provided it.''

Obama did offer in Charlotte a series of principles that he said should guide lawmakers and administration officials as they deliberate this week.

At the top of that list, he said, was the concept that there is "no blank check," given the size of the potential exposure to the federal government. "Taxpayers," he said, "should be protected and should be able to recoup some of this investment."

In a later statement, Obama's campaign said that, given the potentially unprecedented grant of authority to the Treasury Department, there should be provisions for accountability and independent oversight to protect taxpayers.

He restated his opposition to allowing executives at financial institutions to walk away from the wreckage with big bonuses or golden parachutes financed by the government. "Taxpayers shouldn't be spending a dime to reward CEOs on Wall Street while they're going out the door," he said.

Obama also said the final package should help make it possible for homeowners facing foreclosure to stay in their homes. If financial institutions imperiled by the mortgage crisis are protected, the campaign statement noted, then imperiled homeowners should benefit from similar protections.

"We cannot have a plan for Wall Street banks that does not help homeowners stay in their homes and help distressed communities," his campaign statement said..

Obama also called for new regulations to oversee the financial system, but the campaign statement noted that it will not be possible to do so in the next few weeks. He also reiterated his call for a second stimulus package to be included in the bailout plan.

McCain has outlined similar principles for his recovery plan, including protecting consumers, helping homeowners stay in their homes and keeping the bailout from aiding executives at the failing institutions. McCain has also proposed a Treasury entity that would identify ailing institutions before they fail.

McCain has not endorsed the plan being negotiated by the administration and Congress, saying he wants to see the final product first. Unlike Obama, he has not said whether the package should include another economic stimulus.

But McCain has tried to use the issue to present Obama as ambitious but unprincipled.
"Whether it's a reversal in war, or an economic emergency,'' McCain said, "he reacts as a politician and not as a leader, seeking an advantage for himself instead of a solution for his country.''

Obama spoke to a crowd estimated at about 20,000 people, with several thousand more outside the secure perimeter. It was his first trip to the state since Aug. 19.

North Carolina has been a solidly Republican state in recent presidential elections, but Obama's campaign hopes to make it competitive in November by stoking enthusiasm, particularly among African Americans.

By Post Editor  |  September 21, 2008; 3:41 PM ET
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Obama's Social Security Whopper
September 20, 2008
He tells Social Security recipients their money would now be in the stock market under McCain's plan. False.
In Daytona Beach, Obama said that "if my opponent had his way, the millions of Floridians who rely on it would've had their Social Security tied up in the stock market this week." He referred to "elderly women" at risk of poverty, and said families would be scrambling to support "grandmothers and grandfathers."

That's not true. The plan proposed by President Bush and supported by McCain in 2005 would not have allowed anyone born before 1950 to invest any part of their Social Security taxes in private accounts. All current retirees would be covered by the same benefits they are now.

Obama would have been correct to say that many workers under age 58 would have had some portion of their Social Security benefits affected by the current market turmoil – if they had chosen to participate. And market drops would be a worry for those who retire in future decades. But current retirees would not have been affected.

In our "Scaring Seniors" article posted Sept. 19 we took apart a claim in an Obama-Biden ad that McCain somehow supported a 50 percent cut in Social Security benefits, which is simply false. Then, on Saturday Sept. 20, Sen. Barack Obama personally fed senior citizens another whopper, this one a highly distorted claim about the private Social Security accounts that McCain supports.

What Obama Said

In Daytona Beach, Florida, Obama said in prepared remarks released by the campaign:

Obama, Sept. 20: And I'll protect Social Security, while John McCain wants to privatize it. Without Social Security half of elderly women would be living in poverty - half. But if my opponent had his way, the millions of Floridians who rely on it would've had their Social Security tied up in the stock market this week. Millions would've watched as the market tumbled and their nest egg disappeared before their eyes. Millions of families would've been scrambling to figure out how to give their mothers and fathers, their grandmothers and grandfathers, the secure retirement that every American deserves. 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.

That's untrue. All current retirees would be covered by exactly the same Social Security benefits they are now under what the Obama campaign likes to call the "Bush-McCain privatization plan," which Bush pushed for unsuccessfully in 2005.

Who Would Have Been Affected

As the White House spelled out at the time, on page 5 of the document titled "Strengthening Social Security for the 21st Century," released in February 2005:

Bush Plan: Personal retirement accounts would be phased in. To ease the transition to a personal retirement account system, participation would be phased in according to the age of the worker. In the first year of implementation, workers currently between age 40 and 54 (born 1950 through 1965 inclusive) would have the option of establishing personal retirement accounts. In the second year, workers currently between age 26 and 54 (born 1950 through 1978 inclusive) would be given the option and by the end of the third year, all workers born in 1950 or later who want to participate in personal retirement accounts would be able to do so.

Nobody born before Jan. 1, 1950 could have participated, and anyone born on that date would be 58 years old now. The earliest possible age for receiving Social Security retirement benefits is 62, for early retirement at reduced benefits. Full retirement age is currently 66, and scheduled to go up to age 67 in coming years.

It is certainly true that the stock market carries risks, as recent events remind us. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down nearly 17 percent for this year, for example, and despite gains in other years it is still barely above where it was at the start of 2000. But historically there have also been rewards for those who make diversified investments and hold for long periods. When Obama spoke, the Dow Jones average still stood 305 percent higher than it had at the start of the 1990's.

Disappearing nest eggs?

Also worth noting here:

The private accounts would have been voluntary. Anybody fearful of the stock market's risk could simply stay in the current system.

Obama's reference to "casino culture," disappearing "nest eggs" and gambling with "your life savings" are also misleading exaggerations. Only a little over one-fourth of any workers' total Social Security taxes could have been invested (a maximum of 4 percent of taxable wages, out of the total 15.3 per cent now paid, split equally between worker and employer.)

Speculation in individual stocks would not have been permitted. Workers would have had a choice of a few, broadly diversified stock or bond funds.

While McCain has voted in favor creating private Social Security accounts in the past, and endorsed Bush's 2005 proposal (which never came to a vote in Congress), he is not making a strong push for them as part of his campaign. In fact, a search for the term "Social Security" on the McCain-Palin Web site brings up the following: "No documents were found."

Footnote: When we contacted the Obama campaign for comment, spokesman Tommy Vietor defended Obama's remarks as accurate:

Vietor: You don’t have to be retired to rely on Social Security. Millions of people who will one day retire rely on Social Security as they plan their future. Senator Obama's bottom line is absolutely true. If McCain got his way and we had private accounts . . . people who are relying on that money for their retirement would be in a very difficult situation.

We would grant Vietor a point if Obama had made any mention of workers being fearful of their future retirement (although this would apply only to those who had chosen to participate in private accounts, and not to everybody.) But Obama did not say that. Instead, he referred to "elderly women" in danger of poverty. He spoke of families "scrambling to figure out how to give their mothers and fathers, their grandmothers and grandfathers" a secure retirement – not to families worrying about their own retirement. If Obama did not mean what he said to be a reference to current retirees, he could say so clearly and amend his words.

-by Brooks Jackson
The White House, "Strengthening Social Security for the 21st Century," Feb 2005.

Dow Jones & Co. "Dow Jones Industrial Average Historical Performance" Spreadsheet accessed 20 Sep 2008.

Related Articles
Scaring Seniors
An Obama-Biden ad says McCain supports "cutting benefits in half" for Social Security recipients. False!
Bush Proposes Slowing Growth of Social Security Benefits for Future Retirees
Democrats call it a "cut." Compared to what?

Posted by: Scott | September 22, 2008 7:55 AM | Report abuse

Despite John McCain's stated disinterest in all things economic, I know he would be the best person in charge of the economy from Januar 2009 onwards. And should Mr. McCain part this world prematurely, I can't think of a better economic guru (far better than Joe Biden or Barack Obama) than the thoughtful, intellectual, and well seasoned VP candidate Sarah Palin.

Please, people, think well before you vote in November. A vote for McCain and Palin is a vote for motivated interest and seasoned experience in economic matters!

Posted by: Anonymous | September 22, 2008 12:06 AM | Report abuse

Barack’s scary video showing what he would do in a time of war here :

Please think and learn the truth before you vote in November …..

Posted by: Clay_NC | September 21, 2008 8:39 PM | Report abuse


I truly believe the John McCain and Sarah Palin are honest. Sarah didn't use yahoo accounts for government business because she was trying to hide information from Freedom of Information Act-type inquiries. Rather, she was using Yahoo because she LIKES to yahoo. She just wants to support a great American business which Yahoo is.

Sarah Palin IS honest and transparent no matter what people might smirk about.

Posted by: Palin supporter | September 21, 2008 5:58 PM

In full discloser I am a friend of Sarah's since high school. I decided that if I did not reveal this I would be deceptive.

Posted by: Palin supporter | September 21, 2008 6:58 PM

Posted by: Palin's Aunt Nancy | September 21, 2008 8:26 PM | Report abuse

Both parties and all candidates are either bought out by the money men or being held hostage by them.

Those of you who think that either McCain or Obama are going to do what's right for the American people as a whole as a higher priority than what's going to help the big money people are sadly, sadly in cloud cuckoo land. Naivety, of course, is a time-worn American tradition!

Posted by: Garth | September 21, 2008 8:18 PM | Report abuse

IDon't overlook the fact that Sec Paulson is being advised by Morgan Stanley one of the firms that caused this financial mess. Why does Mr Paulson think that a firm that was unable to propeerly assess risk in the past few years should be advising the Treasury on Risk in this new bailout action says to me that the taxpayers in this country and the government which will be the new consumer of these complex financial assets are not being adequately advised.

The bailout is needed but the government should be adequately compensated for the risk that we the tax payers are forced to absorb. This is the real issue in this bailout and both candidates are silent. You can be sure the reason McCain is silent is because his campaign is overridden with industry insiders. Mr Obama's silence say to me that if he is elected we are still going to have to be watchful of him, even if he is somewhat better than McCain.

Posted by: Co Mander | September 21, 2008 7:26 PM | Report abuse

I truly believe the John McCain and Sarah Palin are honest. Sarah didn't use yahoo accounts for government business because she was trying to hide information from Freedom of Information Act-type inquiries. Rather, she was using Yahoo because she LIKES to yahoo. She just wants to support a great American business which Yahoo is.

Sarah Palin IS honest and transparent no matter what people might smirk about.

Posted by: Palin supporter | September 21, 2008 5:58 PM

In full discloser I am a friend of Sarah's since high school. I decided that if I did not reveal this I would be deceptive.

Posted by: Palin supporter | September 21, 2008 6:58 PM | Report abuse

I'd like to share what I noticed about John McCain this week. On Monday I noticed a statement by John McCain that the fundamentals of the economy were strong. I too had felt that way until that Monday morning when The investment bank said it was going into bankruptcy and AIG was nearly insolvent.
My mother has an annuity with AIG and it represented 10% of her income. She's on social security. My wife's pension plan is with AIG and we're counting on that money in three years.
Mr McCain has a tin ear. He does not listen when he is told something. When the largest insurer in the world is nearly out of business the economy is not in sound condition.
McCain has a tin ear. He is stubborn and won't listen. That is dangerous in a senator but particularly so in a president.
His critics say its bad because he changed his position the next day. I say its bad because I knew on Monday that something was seriously wrong. Why didn't he? He is supposed to know more than me, but I question that.

Posted by: Delmar | September 21, 2008 6:53 PM | Report abuse

Lying thieving cheating Republicans love their disingenuous talking points. If one of you parrots could think for yourselves this country wouldn't be in the trouble it is. You idiots can't understand that fraudulent counterfeit paper to the tune of trillions was created and that this administration knew exactly what was going on and will allow it to continue. You idiots that are unable to comprehend the destruction of the laws that saved this nation from exactly this type of fraud for over 70 years. You idiots that prostrate yourselves to your corporate and monied masters. Idiots that would rather be a slave with power over other slave's then allow freedom in a free nation.
Now the people who destroyed the constitution and created a banana republic will extort the citizens of this nation for what they determine the paper should be worth and not even mark to market the real value of the paper. Walk away from your house and come back and by it for 1/4 the cost at auction, that is the scam these low life's are running.
Buy the paper for what Wall Street says its worth, mark it down to pennies on the dollar, let Wall Street buy it back, let the tax payers make up the difference, then let Wall Street claim any profit. While you are at it remove all oversight from the process and give the executive more unilateral power, all hail king george. You Repugs are a bunch of idiots and liars.
Hey, lets all listen to the spastic little pig boy and his hick soul mate for the non solution solution to the chaos their political ideology has created. Let's allow the spastic knee jerk do anything to get a vote (R)etrobate's to do what ever is politically expedient to save their lying thieving base.

Posted by: Average joe | September 21, 2008 6:25 PM | Report abuse

I truly believe the John McCain and Sarah Palin are honest. Sarah didn't use yahoo accounts for government business because she was trying to hide information from Freedom of Information Act-type inquiries. Rather, she was using Yahoo because she LIKES to yahoo. She just wants to support a great American business which Yahoo is.

Sarah Palin IS honest and transparent no matter what people might smirk about.

Posted by: Palin supporter | September 21, 2008 5:58 PM | Report abuse

Because Republicans are the political party who demonstrates the greatest concern for healthy businesses and wealthy CEOs, we should entrust them to save us from this near-financial disaster since right now there is no end in sight (yes, there are still dominoes to fall).

Democrats are often at odds with big business. Republicans are cozy. That's why business trusts Republicans to get them out of this mess, NOT the democrats.

Vote Republican if you know how business and politics mesh in America. Please.

Posted by: Kathy Goodman (CT) | September 21, 2008 5:52 PM | Report abuse

With Bush''s record, McCain is trying to say he is a non-Republican Republican. Does this mean he was for the Republicans before he was against them? McCain''s own voting record speaks for itself on huge tax cuts for the extremely wealthy and complete support of deregulation of Wall St.. He can run from Bush but he cannot hide. "I''m Not Really a Republican" McCain is happy to have Palin by his side- he was unable to draw any but the most loyal party members before the New American Idol showed up. But like the fate of all American Idols, Palin is yesterday''s news. We have all moved on. We are all far more worried about the prospect of working until we need walkers as we watch our 401K''s drop like a stone. Neither McCain or Palin have a clue. If McCain is disabled for any reason, would we want her choosing the next head of the Fed, let alone have a finger on the nuclear trigger? Furthermore they can run but they cannot hide from Bushonomics. McCain can pretend not to be a Republican but that would be like Palin pretending to know the first thing about Wall Street. After all, she can''t see it from Alaska. The pair of them are for the Bush policy of bare-knuckle free market economics and will seek zero oversight of greedy investment bankers. You can''t " Throw the Bums Out" if you are the bums.

Posted by: jefflz | September 21, 2008 5:37 PM | Report abuse

This is exactly where Sarah Palin comes into the picture. Unlike John McCain, who's professed interest is more foreign affairs and dealing with anyone he feels might threaten us world-wide, Ms Palin is interested in the economy and will prove a quick study to fill in John McCain's gaps in interest.

Should John McCain die in office, I'm confident that we're in good hands with Sarah Palin. Unlike wishy washy democrats who are always consulting this, that and the other so-called 'expert', Sarah is prepared to go it alone if necessary and do what SHE thinks is best for the economy. It's maverickism at its finest!

Posted by: McCain/Palin 08 | September 21, 2008 4:59 PM | Report abuse

"Blaming Bush for this bailout is crazy. After all, he did try to prevent this fiasco in 2003, as did McCain in 2005, by trying to regulate Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac."

I'm blaming conservatism. By its very definition, conservatism means moving slowly, carefully, cautiously, and thoughtfully. Which means that nothing gets done until things get REALLY desperate. It doesn't matter whether we're talking government bailouts or government response to climate change, it's all handled by a slow, plodding conservative attitude towards change -- until we find ourselves in a desperate situation!

Posted by: Carson | September 21, 2008 4:56 PM | Report abuse

Corruption occurs WHENEVER a political group is allowed to be in power for too long and don't have enough checks and balances on their behaviour.

So people, please CUT OUT this partisan CRAP about whether republicans or democrats are mostly to blame. In the end, they're all elected by you and me and you and I haven't done a frickin' thing to put them under control!

Posted by: Non-Partisan | September 21, 2008 4:52 PM | Report abuse

Blaming Bush for this bailout is crazy. After all, he did try to prevent this fiasco in 2003, as did McCain in 2005, by trying to regulate Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

He now could very well sit back, relax and watch the show-- after all his term is coming to an end.

As usual, the democrats always manage to have their cake and eat it too. It's a fact this bailout actually works in their favor. It enables them to provide affordable / free housing, courtesy the American tax payer. They should be grateful to Bush for this.

Posted by: Dennis | September 21, 2008 4:47 PM | Report abuse

I agree with the blogger below who said Washington is corrupt. Most but not all of that corruption is by Republicans who stood around ignoring it. I do not believe that McCain is part of that corruption but Palin is another story. So neither McCain or Obama are the main actors. But to suggest that McCain is not tinged when the Attorney General was corrupt and McCain unlike Spector remained suspiciously silent.

The change in corruption will not come from John McCain or Obama. It will come from a change in the party of the president and the American people keeping on the case of Obama and Pelosi and making sure that they stay on the wagon.

After the Democratic victory in 2006, Pelosi came dangerously close to stepping in excrement when she supported Murtha who like congressman Young and Sen Stevens the Alaskan Republican are immersed in earmarks but it is Palin's Alaska under her guidance that is number one in earmarks per capita.

When you want to know where McCain is weakest just look at his attacks and you will find his own fault.

The choice of Palin as VP is so outrageous when it comes to fighting corruption that it leaves me speechless.

Posted by: Ronnn | September 21, 2008 4:45 PM | Report abuse

ES, while I sympathesize with how pissed off you are, the fact is that congress is unlikely to dish out real punishment to those to whom they're beholden. And since the American public (and that includes you) don't put enough pressure on Congress, they feel no compulsion whatsoever to yield under pressures... because there's hardly any pressure for them to yield to!

The American public... you've gotta luv 'em. Whining and moaning but never getting off their coaches and away from their TV to march in the streets and say "enough is enough."

That's why Congress continues on in their merry way. Get voted out of office? That's okay - you've got 2 years (reps) or 6 (Senate) to either get rich or make the connections you need to get rich after you leave office!

Posted by: Another 1 of the 300 million American Coach Potatoes | September 21, 2008 4:45 PM | Report abuse

republicans only need to reintroduce Obama and jerimiah wright to win election. that will be the october re surprize among other things. americans must realize that obama is an extremist and a racist who oppressed voters by snubbing hillary.
he gets very angry and we should all be wary of Oabama's real friends like jeremiah wright, retzco, william ayers and other terrorists, extremists and felons. this is obama's real inner-circle.

Posted by: larry | September 21, 2008 4:40 PM | Report abuse

It's important that we not judge the Republican party on the basis of the giant government bailout (which will increase taxes) that George W Bush has just approved.

In the future, we should just let these financial institutions fail, even if they take the stock market (and the investors) with them because a TRUE CONSERVATIVE POLICY (unlike what GWB now follows) is to let the market forces do their thing and let the cards fall where they may.

I'm confident that John McCain will do a much better job following the conservative philosophy. It's sad that GWB sold out to the liberals.

Posted by: Jason T | September 21, 2008 4:39 PM | Report abuse

McCain complaining about lack of detail is a smoke screen for McCain's entire economic policy that is devoid of details and whose structure is so embedded with attacks on Obama, that is devoid of those attacks would not qualify as a skeleton of a plan.

If independents would just ask themselves the following question when an attack on Obama is made, " How true would that attack be if it were made against McCain?" I was startled when I realized that most of McCain's attacks are a cover up for what are inadequacies of his own.

Posted by: Ronnn | September 21, 2008 4:22 PM | Report abuse

Please pass this message on.



I truly believe the John McCain and Sarah Palin are honest, have the courage and work ethics to "REFORM WASHINGTON" and "CONFRONT WHOEVER, WHEREVER TO REFORM WASHINGTON AND AMERICA!"


There is no time to shout blame from one person to the other~~all of Washington is the Blame. However, McCain and Palin, both have the courage to CONFRONT and REFORM WASHINGTON!"



Posted by: Blondshag | September 21, 2008 4:18 PM | Report abuse

Are You Pissed Yet?

$11.3 trillion is the new national debt ceiling figure proposed by the Bush administration for the MoaB (Mother-of-all-Bailouts).

This comes on top of the more than 3 trillion (and counting) that Bush has already added our national debt. According to the New York Times (it sounds about right with 300 million people), the $700 billion in new spending amounts to $2,000 for every man, woman and child in the United States.

That means you - yes, you - are going to spend $2000 to bailout every Wall Street prick living on Park Avenue with a blond, bony-assed wife and tow-headed toddler. You’re giving $2000 directly to them to pay for their child’s pre-K private school and the wife’s tennis lessons. They’re laughing about this at their weekend home right now. Uncle Sucker.

But, we’re told, it’s absolutely necessary. And, frankly, I believe that. This is the price we pay for lax oversight, for letting bankers leverage themselves beyond any acceptable definition of calculated risk; the price we pay for letting Americans take mortgages they could never afford; the price we pay to save our entire economy from a collapse greater than the Great Depression.

Plus, we’re told, the government is going to get some this money back when it sells off these securities as housing finds a floor. After all, not every mortgage out there will default.

Be that as it may, a hell of a lot of them will (and already have). And if you think defaults are bad now, wait until 2009-2010 when there is (I guarantee this) double digit unemployment, a deep recession, and higher taxes. Congress is going to make sure that there is help for “Main Street” as well as “Wall Street, but how much we will get back is anyone’s guess (a lot depends on the price the Feds pay to take the junk off the banks’ books).

So…are you pissed, yet?

Because here’s what this all boils down to: Every irresponsible prick from Wall Street to Main Street is going to find themselves bailed out of a situation that they are solely responsible for. Leveraged up to your eyeballs and taking incredible risks? Here’s a check. Unable to understand that you have to pay back your mortgage when interest rates rise in two years? No problem, here’s a check.

Meanwhile, every prudent American - those who did not borrow more than they could afford, those who never made a supercharged return on a derivatives trade - is stuck paying the bill for those who did.

Needless to say, I am super-pissed. America is going to be suffering deeply for the foreseeable future and I am going to be paying for it. But this meltdown was not my fault. It is the fault of Wall Street pricks, irresponsible borrowers, and a GOP government that believes that the market does not require oversight.

I want punishment meted out. I want this bill to have consequences beyond just enhanced regulation and transparency. I want heads to roll.

We must have satisfaction.

Posted by: ES | September 21, 2008 4:13 PM | Report abuse

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