McCain says the bailout plan includes no oversight of Treasury's Henry Paulson. Obama says the GOP's deregulation philosophy let markets run wild' and must be changed.
By Bob Drogin and Peter Nicholas
With the Bush administration trying to hurry through Congress a $700-billion package to bail out Wall Street and bolster the U.S. economy, Republican John McCain said he was "greatly concerned" about a plan that gives Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson "the unprecedented power to spend $1 trillion without any meaningful accountability."
At the Irish-American presidential forum in this battleground state, McCain said that the plan being discussed today in Washington gives too much power to Paulson.
"Never before in the history of our nation has so much power and money been concentrated in the hands of one person," he said. "We will not solve a problem caused by poor oversight with a plan that has no oversight."
Democrat Barack Obama meanwhile called for a sweeping reform of Washington's institutions and regulations. In a speech in Green Bay, Wisc., another battleground state, he blamed the Republican philosophy of deregulation for the current meltdown.
"They said they wanted to let the market run free but instead they let it run wild," he said. "We are in this mess because of a bankrupt philosophy that says we should give more and more to those with the most and hope that prosperity trickles down to the rest of us."
And he charged that McCain has had "an election-year conversion" to the need for regulation. "I don't know how these folks say these things with a straight face," he said. "I mean, who's been in charge for the last eight years?"
Chiding McCain for "trying to steal my signs" (Obama's signs say "Change We Need"), Obama said, "After 26 years in Washington -- years where he voted for the same trickle-down, on-your-own policies that got us into this mess -- he now claims that he's the one who can clean it up," he said.
McCain, who just a week ago said the economy was "fundamentally sound," proposed a "high-level oversight board" headed by investor Warren Buffett, an Obama supporter, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a McCain backer, or New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an independent.He also said the plan should not include the golden parachutes that reward failing CEOs with huge bonuses. "We cannot have taxpayers footing the bill for bloated golden parachutes like we see in the Lehman Bros. bankruptcy, where the top executives are asking for $2.5 billion in bonuses after they ran the company into the ground," he said.
Earlier in the day McCain was asked if Carly Fiorina, one of McCain's top economic advisors, is an example of the problem. Fiorina was fired as CEO of Hewlett-Packard in 2005 but left with an estimated $45-million severance package while some 20,000 employees were laid off.
"I don't think so," McCain said on NBC's "Today. "I think she did a good job as CEO in many respects. I don't know the details of her compensation package. But she's one of many advisors that I have."
McCain also criticized Obama for failing to put forth a plan of his own. "At a time of crisis, when leadership is needed, Sen. Obama has simply not provided it," he said. "And the truth is that we don't have time to wait for Sen. Obama's input for our nation to act."
Obama, who has said he wants to avoid making specific recommendations for the bailout while the U.S. government is scrambling to steady the economy, blamed an "era of greed and irresponsibility" on Wall Street and in Washington.
Obama credited McCain for opposing earmark spending but added, "Let's not pretend, as John McCain does, that proposing the elimination of $18 billion of earmarks will make up for the more than $300 billion additional dollars he wants to spend on tax breaks for big corporations and multimillionaires that don't need them and weren't asking for them .. at a time when taxpayers are being asked to help finance two wars and a historic financial bailout. That's some pretty creative math. It doesn't add up to change."
Obama also pledged to "close the revolving door in the White House that has allowed people to use their administration job as a stepping stone to further their lobbying careers" and end the practice of writing legislation behind closed doors.
"Even as Congress debates an emergency plan to save our economy from the verge of collapse there are reports that lobbyists and CEOs are already lining up to figure out what's in it for them," he said.
The debate over an economic program continued over the airwaves as both candidates released new attack ads.
McCain portrays his Democratic opponent as a product of corrupt Chicago machine politics. The Obama ad says McCain wants to bring the deregulation philosophy that has been faulted in the current crisis on Wall Street to the health care system. "John McCain," says the ad. "A risk we just can't afford to take."