Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Bailout Plan: McCain and Obama

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Less than 24 hours after the bill to bailout the financial industry died an ignominious -- and surprising -- death in the House of Representatives, both presidential candidates are jockeying to find their footing in a new political reality. Barack Obama was first out of the gate this morning with a two-pronged approach: a new proposal to increase the cap on federally insured bank deposits from $100,000 to $250,000 and a new two-minute television ad in which he seeks to make the case that he, and not John McCain, is ready and able to lead the country out of its current financial morass.
President Bush and Senate leaders of both parties vowed on Tuesday to work toward quick approval of a financial bailout plan despite the House’s rejection of a $700 billion proposal that the White House had negotiated with Congressional leaders of both parties. “We are at a critical moment for our economy,” the president said. “Congress must act.” Senators Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic majority leader, and Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican minority leader, echoed the president’s determination on Tuesday. “We are committed to keeping the progress on this rescue package moving forward,” Mr. Reid said. “In the coming days, I will continue doing everything possible to see that this dire and avoidable financial crisis has the best possible outcome.” House prices in 20 U.S. cities declined in July at the fastest pace on record, signaling the worst housing recession in a generation had yet to trough even before this month's credit crisis.
Appearing drawn and frustrated, Bush said in remarks at the White House that this is a "critical moment" for the U.S. economy. He noted that yesterday's single-day loss on the stock market, estimated at more than $1 trillion, was greater than the highest estimated cost of his administration's bailout plan. "The consequences will grow worse each day if you do not act," Bush said, addressing dissident lawmakers. He added a moment later: "Our economy is depending on decisive action from the government...This is what elected leaders owe the American people." "Our country is not facing a choice between action and the smooth functioning of the free market. We are facing a choice between action and the real prospect of financial hardship" that will be felt across the board, Bush said. "I am disappointed by the outcome" of the House vote, Bush said, "but I assure our citizens and citizens around the world that this is not the end of the legislative process." The S&P/Case-Shiller home-price index dropped 16.3 percent from a year earlier, more than forecast, after a 15.9 percent decline in June. The gauge has fallen every month since January 2007, and year-over-year records began in 2001.
The housing slump is at the center of the meltdown in financial markets as declining demand pushes down property values and causes foreclosures to mount. Banks will probably stiffen lending rules even more in coming months to limit losses, indicating residential real estate will keep contracting and consumer spending will continue to falter.
``The fact that house prices quickened their slide before the worst point in credit markets hit this month does not bode well,'' said Derek Holt, an economist at Scotia Capital Inc. in Toronto.
Home prices decreased 0.9 percent in July from the prior month after declining 0.5 percent in June, the report showed. The figures aren't adjusted for seasonal effects so economists prefer to focus on year-over-year changes instead of month-to-month.
More Cities Down
Prices dropped in 13 cities month-over-month, compared with 11 in June. Las Vegas saw values fall 2.8 percent in July, the largest decline.
Economists forecast the 20-city index would fall 16 percent from a year earlier, according to the median of 23 estimates in a Bloomberg News survey. Projections ranged from declines of 14.5 percent to 16.5 percent.
Compared with a year earlier, all 20 areas showed a decrease in prices in July, led by a 30 percent drop in Las Vegas and a 29 percent decline in Phoenix.
``While some cities did show some marginal improvement over last month's data, there is still very little evidence of any particular region experiencing an absolute turnaround,'' David Blitzer, chairman of the index committee at S&P, said in a statement.
Robert Shiller, chief economist at MacroMarkets LLC and a professor at Yale University, and Karl Case, an economics professor at Wellesley College, created the home-price index based on research from the 1980s.
Other Measures
Other reports show price declines continue. The National Association of Realtors said Sept. 24 that the median price of an existing home fell 9.5 percent in August from a year earlier, compared with an 8 percent drop in July. The following day, the Commerce Department said the median price of new homes fell 6.2 percent in August from a year earlier, following a 4.6 percent drop the prior month.
Sales of previously owned homes fell 2.2 percent in August from the prior month and were 32 percent below their historic high reached in September 2005. Declining home construction has subtracted from growth since the first quarter of 2006, pushing the economy to the brink of a downturn.
U.S. homebuilders, buffeted by at least $19 billion in losses since 2006, will ask lawmakers to pass a $15,000 tax credit for all homebuyers, replacing a $7,500 incentive enacted earlier this year that they contend failed to stimulate demand.
``Our members are really hurting,'' Jerry Howard, the chief executive officer of the National Association of Home Builders, said in an interview yesterday. ``The tax credit passed in July seems to have failed to have sparked interest.'' ..
It is our responsibility today, to help avert that catastrophic outcome. Let us be clear: This is a crisis caused on Wall Street. But it is a crisis that reaches to Main Street in every city and town of the United States. It is a crisis that freezes credit, causes families to lose their homes, cripples small businesses, and makes it harder to find jobs. It is a crisis that never had to happen. It is now the duty of every member of this body to recognise that the failure to act responsibly, with full protections for the American taxpayer, would compound the damage already done to the financial security of millions of American families. Over the past several days, we have worked with our Republican colleagues to fashion an alternative to the original plan of the Bush administration. I must recognise the outstanding leadership provided by [the chairman of the House financial services committee and Democrat of Massachusetts] Barney Frank, whose enormous intellectual and strategic abilities have never before been so urgently needed, or so widely admired. I also want to recognise [Illinois Democratic Republican] Rahm Emanuel, who combined his deep knowledge of financial institutions with his pragmatic policy experience to resolve key disagreements. Secretary Paulson deserves credit for working day and night to help reach an agreement, and for his flexibility in negotiating changes to his original proposal. Democrats insisted that legislation responding to this crisis must protect the American people and Main Street from the meltdown on Wall Street. The American people did not decide to dangerously weaken our regulatory and oversight policies. They did not make unwise and risky financial deals. They did not jeopardise the economic security of the nation. And they must not pay the cost of this emergency recovery and stabilisation bill. So we insisted that this bill contain several key provisions. This legislation must contain independent and ongoing oversight to ensure that the recovery programme is managed with full transparency and strict accountability. The legislation must do everything possible to allow as many people to stay in their homes rather than face foreclosure. The corporate CEOs whose companies will benefit from the public's participation in this recovery must not benefit by exorbitant salaries and golden parachute retirement bonuses. Our message to Wall Street is this: the party is over. The era of golden parachutes for high-flying Wall Street operators is over. No longer will the US taxpayer bail out the recklessness of Wall Street. The taxpayers who bear the risk in this recovery must share in the upside as the economy recovers. And should this programme not pay for itself, the financial institutions that benefited, not the taxpayers, must bear responsibility for making up the difference. These were the Democratic demands to safeguard the American taxpayer, to help the economy recover, and to impose tough accountability as a central component of this recovery effort. This legislation is not the end of congressional activity on this crisis. Over the course of the next few weeks, we will continue to hold investigative and oversight hearings to find out how the crisis developed, where mistakes were made, and how the recovery must be managed to protect the middle class and the American taxpayer. With passage of this legislation today, we can begin the difficult job of turning our economy around, of helping those who depend on a growing economy and stable financial institutions for a secure retirement, for the education of their children, for jobs and small business credit. Today we must act for those Americans, for Main Street, and we must act now, with the bipartisan spirit of cooperation which allowed us to fashion this legislation. This not enough. We are also working to restore our nation's economic strength by passing a new economic recovery stimulus package, a robust, job-creating bill that will help Americans struggling with high prices, get our economy back on track and renew the American dream. Today we will act to avert this crisis, but informed by our experience of the past eight years, with the failed economic leadership that has left us less capable of meeting the challenges of the future. We choose a different path. In the new year, with a new Congress and a new president, we will break free with a failed past and take America in a new direction to a better future..
Fear swept the financial markets after the vote and resulted in the worst single-day drop in two decades, nearly nine percent. The Standard & Poor's 500-stock index fell 8.77 percent, its biggest drop since October 1987. A trader, left, looked at the numbers on a board at the New York Stock Exchange.

John Boehner, the Republican minority leader, called the measure "a mud sandwich" but urged members to reflect on the damage that a defeat of the measure would mean "to your friends, your neighbors, your constituents" as they might watch their retirement savings "shrivel up to zero."
Sixty-five Republicans joined 140 Democrats in voting for the measure, while 133 Republicans and 95 Democrats voted against it. "The legislation has failed," Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said at a news conference after the vote. Some Republicans seemed to blame Pelosi's speech from the floor, which attacked Bush's economic policies, for the defeat.

Defying President Bush and the leaders of both parties, rank-and-file lawmakers in the House on Monday rejected a $700 billion economic rescue plan in a revolt that rocked the Capitol, sent markets plunging and left top lawmakers groping for a resolution.
The stunning defeat of the proposal on a 228-205 vote after marathon talks by senior Congressional and Bush administration officials lowered a fog of uncertainty over economies around the globe. Its authors had described the measure as essential to preventing widespread economic calamity. The markets began to plummet even before the 15-minute voting period expired on the House floor. For 25 more minutes, uncertainty gripped the nation as television showed party leaders trying, and failing, to muster more support. Finally, Representative Ellen Tauscher, Democrat of California, pounded the gavel and it was done.

McCain, Obama Scrutinize Bailout Plan : NPR
Republican John McCain has called for greater oversight of the Bush administration's proposed $700 billion bailout of the U.S. financial markets. His Democratic rival, Barack Obama ...
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McCain and Obama mum on bailout
... open-ended, you might want to check out the responses to his plan from John McCain and Barack Obama. ... plan popped that mostly just referenced the if-I-were-president bailout plan ...
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McCain, Obama raise doubts about bailout plan
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., greets supporters after a rally in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Sept. 21, 2008. WASHINGTON ( Map , News ) - Democrat Barack ...
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Obama backs bailout plan
Obama calls for broader authority for Treasury and Fed. See also: Obama: McCain is 'panicked' ... CORAL GABLES, Fla. – Calling the market upheaval one of the most serious in the ...
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McCain mum on debate despite bailout plan
The question of whether U.S. presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain would go forward with their debate remained unresolved Thursday.
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McCain, Obama both call for more bank deposit insurance
Decrying inaction on a financial bailout plan, Barack Obama and John McCain propose similar bipartisan solutions. They want to include raising the FDIC insurance limit to $250,000.
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Source: Los Angeles Times
NewsDateTime: 24 minutes ago

Analysis: With bailout, McCain reaches dead end
In so doing, he tied himself far more tightly to the bill than did his Democratic opponent, Barack Obama. Then, as the bailout plan appeared ready for passage Monday in the House, McCain bragged that he was an action-oriented Teddy Roosevelt ...
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Source: Forbes
NewsDateTime: 5 hours ago

Obama and McCain urge bailout revival
A new poll by the Pew Research Center found weakening public support for the bailout. The September 27-29 survey said Americans only backed the plan by a 45 percent to 38 percent margin. Both Obama and McCain said they backed lifting the limit on bank ...
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Source: Reuters
NewsDateTime: 3 hours ago

Lawmakers scramble to revise bailout bill
... to find out what changes are needed to sell the failed $700 billion financial system bailout to rank-and-file members. John McCain and Barack Obama offered long-distance help from the campaign trail. They announced separately that they support a plan ...
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Source: Forbes
NewsDateTime: 1 hour ago

President Bush urges reviving financial bailout
Presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama joined Bush in calling for Congress to concoct a financial system bailout plan. Bush's proposed $700 billion plan was voted down yesterday in Congress, igniting the Wall Street free-fall.
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Source: New York Daily News
NewsDateTime: 2 hours ago

McCain, in an appearance this morning on "Fox and Friends," offered a few proposals of his own including: the same increase on FDIC insurance on deposits proposed by Obama, tapping the "exchange stability fund" at Treasury for $250 billion to shore up financial institutions and urging Treasury to use the $1 trillion at its disposal to start buying bad mortgages in hopes of turning the corner on the current crisis. The flurry of activity this morning speaks to the huge political consequences of the ongoing battle to rescue the economy. Nearly every American is now paying attention and worried about the impact of the failure of the bailout on their own lives. In polling released by the Washington Post and ABC News this morning, more than nine in ten voters said they were worried that the failure of the bill could cause even more serious economic problems down the line. And, despite the fact -- as we have noted before -- that neither Obama nor McCain can do really do much to change the financial direction of the country, there's little doubt judging from their words and actions this past week that each candidate believes that voters are looking to them for solutions. While the proposals this morning are a start, The Fix chatted with a number of Democratic and Republican strategists to solicit their ideas on what more (or less) Obama and McCain could do to "win" this issue with just 35 days left before the election. The best of their thoughts, and some of our own, are below. Agree or disagree? Have thoughts of your own? Offer them in the comments section below. MCCAIN • Go Negative: Many Republican strategists believe there is simply no way for McCain to win an economic-focused election by touting his own plans to turn things around. "Go totally negative and don't let up until election day," advised Ed Rogers, a longtime Republican strategist and lobbyist. "This election needs to be about Obama and what a liberal he is. Period." Another Republican operative added: "Start attacking Obama's character relentlessly (again) if the McCain campaign has any hope of regaining the initiative.... It's not like there isn't plenty out there." The Republican National Committee seems to be following that advice with a new ad from its independent expenditure wing that savages Obama on his proposal to spend $1 trillion more on new programs; "Obama's spending plan: It'll make the problems worse," reads white writing on a black screen at the ad's close. • Stay out of Washington: McCain's initial campaign suspension gambit is widely seen in Republican circles as a failure. Don't repeat it. The more McCain reminds voters that he is "of Washington" the worse this issue plays. Always remember that less than one in five Americans approve of the job Congress is doing and a similar number believe the country is on the right track. "I don't think he should return to Washington because that just reminds and re-chatters that he returned to Washington the first time and didn't get it done," said one GOP strategist. • Persuade Privately: McCain's very public role in the negotiations blew up in his face last week. So, take the opposite tact; go underground -- organize private meetings with GOP House leaders out of the public eye to convince them of what is at stake if no bill is passed. The blame game seems to be falling inordinately on Republicans -- particularly House Republicans -- at the moment and that is bad for the GOP up and down the ticket. (Fifty-four percent of Fixistas said House Republicans should bear the blunt of the blame in our decidedly unscientific poll last night.) "Stay out of the negotiating squabble," argued on Republican consultant. "Stay quiet publicly if rumors leak out of any overt 'involvement' in them." • Summit It: Take the lead in calling for a summit between himself, Obama and their top five economic advisers. Leave Congress out of it. Hope -- and do everything you can to ensure -- that a plan emerges from that high-level summit. If the two presidential candidates can get together on a plan, it's hard to imagine that Congress would balk at the proposal. Of course, after yesterday's vote, anything is possible. • Moveon.org: Under the belief that this issue cannot be won, stay in the background and hope that a solution is found sooner rather than later. McCain's attempt to be the "man in the arena" flopped last week and that should be a sign that this is an absolute no-win for the Arizona senator. "The bottom line politically is McCain needs this behind him as soon as possible," said Phil Musser, a Republican consultant and former executive director of the Republican Governors Association. "Every day we are in this limbo where top line messaging lies well beyond our control . . . is a bad news day for us." OBAMA • Do Nothing: The desire for change in Washington has been growing almost by the day since the financial crisis began nearly two weeks ago. To date, Obama has largely adopted a hands off approach, refusing to be baited by McCain's call to suspend his campaign last week and postpone the debate. And, it's worked. Public and private polling has shown an Obama rise/McCain drop in recent days -- as the average voter seems to be reacting more positively to Obama's sober approach to the crisis than McCain's more frenzied strategy. "Putting aside substance, the politics of this favor Obama so he doesn't have to do much, if he doesn't want to," said one Democratic consultant. • Summit It: The only suggestion that cropped up in our conversations with both Democrats and Republicans was the convening of a bipartisan summit led by Obama and McCain. "[Obama] should call McCain and the two of them should convene a private unity summit for Republicans and Democrats to come together to hash out an acceptable final product," said Phil Singer, a former senior official for Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential campaign. "They should make it clear that in the interest of producing a bill, they will play no role in the process -- so as not to politicize things further." • Reintroduce the Stimulus Package: A bill aimed at providing the economy a shot in the arm passed the House last week but has been held up in the Senate. Obama, according to several Democratic sources, should re-introduce the bill and demand its passage as a necessary momentum-builder for an economy badly in need of some good news. "Obama should say we need to make sure that Main Street is a part of this effort and not passing the stimulus is a mistake," argued one Democratic strategist. "It makes McCain go on the defensive and [he] would have to come back and vote for it -- would be horrible if he voted against it."

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