Speeches from the 2008 Presidential Campaign
Remarks on the Bailout Bill
September 23, 2008
America today faces an historic national crisis. The global economy is directly threatened by the potential collapse of our financial system.
Two years ago, I warned the American people about the lack of oversight, transparency, backroom dealings and financial recklessness at Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. Those warnings went unheeded, and more than anything directly contributed to the subprime mortgage crisis which has created the perfect economic storm.
Further inaction is simply not an option. We must pass legislation to address this crisis. If we do not, credit will dry up, with devastating consequences for our economy. People will no longer be able to buy homes and their life savings will be at stake. Businesses will not have enough money to pay their employees.
But let us be perfectly clear: a great burden is upon the American people. Seven hundred billion dollars is a staggering and unprecedented figure, and it is important that I speak plainly to the American people about the dimensions of this proposal. In essence, what this plan requires is a ten thousand dollar contribution per household. Seven hundred billion dollars, for example, could rebuild the crumbling infrastructure in every town, county, and state in this country.
Because what is being asked of the American people is unprecedented, great care must be taken to ensure their protection.
With the taxpayer in mind, I am seeking 5 basic improvements to this legislation:
First, there must be greater accountability included in the bill. I have suggested a bipartisan board to provide oversight for the rescue. We will not solve a problem caused by poor oversight with a plan that has no oversight. Never before in the history of our nation has so much power and money been concentrated in the hands of one person, and there must be protections and oversight in place.
Second, as a part of that oversight, there must be a path for taxpayers to recover the money that is put into this fund. One trillion dollars is an unprecedented sum. We are talking about ten thousand dollars per household, and that money cannot simply go into a black hole of bad debt with no means of recovering any of the funds.
Third, there must be complete transparency in the review of this legislation and in the implementation of any legislation. This cannot be cobbled together behind closed doors. The American people have the right to know which businesses will be helped, what that selection will be based on and how much that help will cost. All the details should all be made available online and elsewhere for open public scrutiny.
Fourth, no Wall Street executives should profit from taxpayer dollars. It is wrong to ask teachers and farmers and small business owners to fill the gas tanks of the helicopters of Wall Street tycoons. The senior leaders of any firm that is bailed out should not be making more than the highest paid government official.
Fifth and finally, it is completely unacceptable for any kind of earmarks to be included in this bill. It would be outrageous for legislators and lobbyists to pack this rescue plan with taxpayer money for favored companies. This simply cannot happen.
Let me restate that inaction is not an option. The American people are watching. History will be our judge, and it will judge us harshly if we do not put our country first in this crisis.
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