Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Senate Democrats React To $700 Billion Wall Street Bailout

Democratic Senators were quick to issue their opinions yesterday on the Bush administration's plan to abandon the Republican, government-bad-all-the-time philosophy and give a blank check of $700 billion to bail out their troubled friends on Wall Street. Some samples of that reaction:

Russ Feingold (D-WI)

“I want to get answers to the serious questions about the bailout plan before I decide whether or not to support it. I want to know how the taxpayers’ interests will be protected, what the real cost of the plan could be, if the plan will be funded or just piled on top of our already mountainous debt, if it will include protections to prevent something like this in the future, and if the executives of the companies that are rescued by taxpayers will continue to receive multimillion dollar compensation packages.

"I recognize that Secretary Paulson and Chairman Bernanke have a tough job, but the administration is asking Congress to provide nearly one-third of the total federal budget to the Treasury Department for this rescue plan. These and other questions need to be answered before we decide whether or not to approve it.”

Tim Johnson (D-SD)

"For the past seven years the Bush administration has stifled regulation at every turn. Now, as negotiations continue between the Administration and Congress regarding the Treasury plan, I think it is vital that we do not give the Administration a blank check.

"Any proposal that is considered by Congress must provide strong oversight of the Treasury’s authority. Any American tax dollars committed in this package should be reserved exclusively for our American banks and for the benefit of our broad American economy, and there should be strong limits placed on executive pay. Folks in South Dakota work hard, and their earnings should not subsidize the bloated compensation of a CEO of a failing firm. This package may be a necessary evil, but we cannot allow it to be a gift to those on Wall Street at the expense of those on Main Street."

Barbara A. Mikulski (D-MD)

“We must act with resolve, but we cannot be a rubber stamp for the Administration’s proposal. This gives sweeping authority to those who were asleep at the switch in the first place. This is a three-page bill that gives the Secretary of the Treasury unlimited power to intervene in our financial markets, without any review by Congress, agencies or courts. This makes Secretary Paulson a financial czar – it says, give us a blank check with no balances. Well, I say, no checks without balances.”

Tom Harkin (D-IA)

“The Bush administration has proposed a $700 billion bailout for the powers of Wall Street. But who is going to rescue ordinary working Americans left in the ruins after eight years of failed economic policies? The administration’s strategy is to rush this latest bailout package through Congress by the end of the week, warning of a financial meltdown if we fail to act. I cannot consider supporting any bailout package that fails to protect American taxpayers by ensuring that money is repaid to the Treasury if these companies generate profits, and by forbidding corporations for rewarding executives who helped create this crisis with lucrative golden parachutes."

Sherrod Brown (D-OH)

"We’re all angry about what this administration has done to our economy. The Bush administration helped its friends on Wall Street and ignored Main Street. Middle class families are playing by the rules while cowboy capitalists on Wall Street sent the market into free-fall. Make no mistake, this era is over—the next administration will report to Main Street, not Wall Street.

"We need to restore financial stability so that Wall Street’s problems don’t cost middle class families their jobs, retirement accounts, college education funds, and savings."

Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)

“After eight years of deregulation and lack of accountability, this Administration has created the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. A crisis that will hurt hardworking American families across the country because credit markets are drying up and pension assets are at risk. I believe any proposal must put American families first by ensuring the American taxpayer is protected, strengthening oversight and accountability, limiting executive compensation, and most importantly, helping families stay in their homes."

Barbara Boxer (D-CA)

"We all agree that the government needs to act swiftly to prevent this crisis from further escalating, but we also need to ensure that as we act, we do no repeat the mistakes of the past—lax oversight by federal agencies and commissions and a continued disdain by this Administration for congressional oversight. If the American taxpayers come to the rescue in this financial crisis, you have to provide assurances that they aren’t just taking on bad debt and further jeopardizing their future.

"In addition, the authority the Administration has asked for is so broad, it could be used to pay outlandish multimillion dollar benefits to the same executives who ran their companies into the ground."

Maria Cantwell (D-WA)

“At a time when the American people are hurting, and the middle class is suffering from rising prices and declining incomes, I am extremely concerned about the volatility of the financial markets and its impact on hardworking Washington state and American families. I am equally troubled that Congress is being asked to respond quickly to a situation that has been years in the making.

“This crisis is a direct result of many years of lax regulation and absent oversight. We must act to restore confidence in our financial markets in the short-term, but we also must take the time to ensure that we fix our regulatory system over the long-term. It is critical that any action we take now be carefully crafted to avoid mistakes that threaten to make the situation worse.”

Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY)

"After eight years of failed policies – and two years of an absentee administration – our only option left may be an unprecedented government intervention into the private markets. The markets must be stabilized to stave off wider turmoil. Nevertheless, the urgency of this crisis does not mean that we should offer a blank check to financial institutions or the privileged few. Nor can we simply allow the administration to use the taxpayers like a ‘reset button.’ We cannot allow Wall Street to act without oversight by a vigilant SEC and administration – and without regard for the American people, who will now have paid twice: in falling prey to a widening credit crisis, and in paying the bill to hopefully bring it to an end."

Kent Conrad (D-ND)

“The Administration’s plan must be changed to give much stronger protection to the American taxpayers who are being asked to put up the money. Their current plan proposes that taxpayers put up $700 billion to buy financial firms’ bad debt. That would leave taxpayers holding the bag for the bad decisions of others. That’s not fair.

“This is a defining moment in our country’s economic history. The Treasury Secretary and Chairman of the Federal Reserve told me directly that America’s financial system is on the brink. They said a failure to take action would result in an outright economic collapse. That would have serious consequences far beyond Wall Street. It would threaten Main Street businesses in North Dakota and across the nation.

“It is important to remember that policy decisions that permitted the build up of budget and trade deficits fundamentally contributed to the bubble that is now bursting. It is critically important that we reverse those policies after we attempt to prevent an economic collapse.”

Ron Wyden (D-OR)

"Essentially, the Bush Administration's proposal socializes the costs and risk of the bailout and privatizes the return. I don't think that's the best deal we can get for the taxpayers, especially when compared to the AIG bailout just last week. In exchange for bailing out AIG, the Federal government and the taxpayers got 80 percent of the stock in return. So if AIG returns to profitability, taxpayers will get a fair share of the profits. I will be looking at the AIG solution and other approaches to ensure that taxpayers get benefits and not just bills from any bailouts.”