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.
September 21, 2008; 3:41 PM ET
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