I opened the meeting by stressing the urgency of passing legislation as soon as possible. Obama had a calm demeanor and spoke about the broad outlines of the package. I thought it was smart when he informed the gathering that he was in constant contact with [Administration officials]. His purpose was to show that he was aware, in touch, and prepared to help get a bill passed.
When Obama finished, I turned to John McCain. He passed. I was puzzled. What had started as a drama quickly descended into a farce.
OBAMA: Every dollar I’ve proposed, I’ve proposed an additional cut hat it matches. To give an example, we spend $15 billion a year on subsidies to insurance companies. It doesn’t help seniors get better. It’s a giveaway. I want to go through the federal budget line by line, programs that don’t work, we cut. Programs we need, we should make them work better. Once we get through this economic crisis, we’re going to have to embrace a culture of responsibility, all of us, corporations, the federal government, & individuals who may be living beyond their means.
McCAIN: I’d have an across-the-board spending freeze. I know how to save billions of dollars in defense spending. One would be the marketing assistance program. Another one would be subsidies for ethanol. I would fight for a line-item veto, and I would certainly veto every earmark pork-barrel bill.
OBAMA: I understand your frustration and your cynicism. Most of the people here, you’ve got a family budget. If less money is coming in, you end up making cuts. Maybe you don’t go out to dinner as much. Maybe you put off buying a new car. That’s not what happens in Washington. And you’re right. There is a lot of blame to go around.
But I think it’s important just to remember a little bit of history. When George Bush came into office, we had surpluses. And now we have half-a-trillion-dollar deficit annually. When George Bush came into office, our national debt was around $5 trillion. It’s now over $10 trillion. We’ve almost doubled it.
And so while it’s true that nobody’s completely innocent here, we have had over the last 8 years the biggest increases in deficit spending and national debt in our history. And Sen. McCain voted for 4 out of 5 of those George Bush budgets.
OBAMA: This is a verdict on the failed policies of the last eight years that said that we should strip away consumer protections, let the market run wild, and prosperity would rain down. Step one was a rescue package that means making sure taxpayers get their money back. The middle-class need a rescue package. That means tax cuts for the middle-class. It means help for homeowners. It means we are helping state governments set up projects that keep people in their jobs. We’ve got to fix our health care system, we’ve got to fix our energy system. You’ve got to have somebody in Washington who is thinking about the middle class and not just those who can afford to hire lobbyists.
McCAIN: I have a plan to fix this problem and it has to do with energy independence. We’ve got to stop sending $700 billion a year to countries that don’t like us. We have to keep Americans’ taxes low. All Americans’ taxes low.
OBAMA: Let me tell you what’s in the rescue package for you. Right now, the credit markets are frozen up and what that means is that small businesses can’t get loans. If they can’t get a loan, that means that they can’t make payroll. If they can’t make payroll, then they may end up having to shut their doors and lay people off. And if you imagine just one company trying to deal with that, now imagine a million companies all across the country. So it could end up having an adverse effect on everybody, and that’s why we had to take action. But we shouldn’t have been there in the first place.
McCAIN: This rescue package means we will stabilize markets, we will shore up these institutions. But it’s not enough. That’s why we’re going to have to go out into the housing market and buy up these bad loans and we’re going to have to stabilize home values, and that way, Americans can realize the American dream and stay in their home.
OBAMA: Each and every one of us can start thinking about how can we save energy. And one of the things I want to do is make sure we’re providing incentives so that you can buy a fuel efficient car that’s made right here in the U.S., not in Japan or South Korea, making sure that you are able to weatherize your home or make your business more fuel efficient.
McCAIN: Some of those programs may not grow as much as we would like for them to, but we can establish priorities with full consultation, not done behind closed doors & shoving earmarks in the middle of the night that we don’t even know about until months later.
All are equally motivated to excel, because they know the system will treat them fairly and reward their hard work and effort.
Obama wrote, "It taught me that ordinary people can do extraordinary things when given the chance. Change does not happen from the top down, but from the bottom-up, because the American people stand ready for change. Just like we need bottom-up politics, we need bottom-up economics. We need to think about working people."
Worse yet, the price-tag for these failures is being passe to our children. The Clinton Administration left behind a surplus, but this Administration squandered it. We face budget deficits in the hundreds of billions and our nearly ten trillion dollars in debt. We’ve borrowed billions from countries like China to finance needless tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and an unnecessary war, and yet Sen. McCain is explicitly running to continue and expand these policies, without a realistic plan to pay for it. I want to take us in a new and better direction.
A: If they have a 401(k), then they are going to see those taxes deferred, and they’re going to pay ordinary income when they finally cash out. So, that’s a phony argument. You know, as I travel around the country, what I’m absolutely convinced of is that people recognize that if only 1% of the population is doing well, when we’ve got wage and incomes for the average worker actually going down during a period of economic expansion, much less economic recession, that something’s being mismanaged. And they want a different approach. And that’s what we’re going to be offering them. John McCain is essentially offering four more years of the same policies that got us into this rut that we’re in now.
A: We account for every single dollar that we propose. This is one of the things that’s happened during the course of this campaign, that there’s a set of assertions made b Clinton and her husband, that are not factually accurate. Part of what the people are looking for right now is somebody who’s going to solve problems and not resort to the same typical politics that we’ve seen in Washington. That is something that I hear all across the country. So when Clinton says I wasn’t opposed to the war from the start or says it’s a fairytale that I opposed the war, that is simply not true. Clinton asserts that I said that the Republicans had better economic policies since 1980. That is not the case. The viewers are concerned about is who’s actually going to help the get health care, how are they going to get their kids going to college, and that’s the kind of campaign I’ve tried to run.
CLINTON: I regretted voting for the bankruptcy bill and I was happy that it didn’t get into law. By 2005, there was another run at a bankruptcy reform, motivated by the credit card companies and the other big lenders. I opposed that bill. There was a particular amendment that is very telling. It was an amendment to prohibit credit card companies from charging more than 30% interest. It was one of the biggest lobbyist victories on that very bad bill that the bankruptcy bill represented.
The result is the most precarious budget situation we have seen in years. We now have an annual budget deficit of almost $300 billion, not counting more than $180 billion we borrow every year from the Social Security Trust Fund.
It is not the debt that is most troubling. The bulk of the debt is a direct result of the President’s tax cuts, 47.4% of which went to the top 5% income bracket.
We can eliminate tax credits that have outlived their usefulness & close loopholes that let corporations get away without paying taxes. We can restore a law that was in place during the Clinton presidency--called Paygo--that prohibits money from leaving the treasury without some way of compensating for the lost revenue.
OBAMA: I’ve got to correct a little bit of Sen. McCain’s history. Let’s, first of all, understand that the biggest problem in this whole process was the deregulation of the financial system. Sen. McCain, as recently as March, bragged about the fact that he is a deregulator. On the other hand, two years ago, I said that we’ve got a sub-prime lending crisis that has to be dealt with. I wrote to Secretary Paulson, I wrote to Federal Reserve Chairman Bernanke, and told them this is something we have to deal with, and nobody did anything about it. A year ago, I went to Wall Street and said we’ve got to reregulate, and nothing happened. And Sen. McCain during that period said that we should keep on deregulating because that’s how the free enterprise system works.
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Pres.George W. Bush
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