Presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain found themselves in rare agreement, each demanding the Bush administration’s unprecedented $700 billion bailout for US financial institutions be subject to independent oversight and guarantees their top executives not be rewarded.
While sounding tough, both senators have assumed positions on the bailout that appear likely to match the shape of the program when it emerges from Congress. It appeared certain to win approval given the possible consequences — the collapse of the US and global economies.
A new poll released on Tuesday found that Americans approved the bailout by a nearly 2-to-1 margin and saw Obama as best able to deal with the mounting financial crisis.
The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press survey, conducted between Friday and Monday, showed 57 per cent of voters believed the government was doing the right thing, while 30 per cent opposed the bailout. The survey also found 47 per cent believed Obama, a Democrat, would best handle the financial meltdown as opposed to 35 per cent who favored McCain, a Republican, in that role.
Obama interrupted his preparations for Friday’s first debate with McCain to tell reporters he could not support the bailout without those assurances as well as two others — a payback to American taxpayers who are financing the bailout and help for US homeowners facing mortgage foreclosure.
He also lashed out at President George W Bush for what he called the administration’s “my-way-or-the-highway intransigence” in putting forward a plan that would have given Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson total discretion — without outside oversight — to use the huge fund to buy up bad investments of banks and other financial institutions.
McCain also held a news conference, his first in more than a month, to declare that the rescue package would cost each American household $10,000 and to demand that the program be fully transparent.
“This can’t be cobbled together behind closed doors,” the four-term Arizona senator said.
And he insisted, as he had earlier on Tuesday, that the programme sponsored by Bush would ensure that “taxpayers’ dollars don’t line the pockets of executives.”
McCain and Obama faced reporters after the Senate Banking Committee had grilled Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke about the bailout plan. Bernanke warned the panel that the economy would plunge into recession without quick action. Neither McCain nor Obama have left the campaign trail to return to Washington to address the crisis.