NEW YORK - Democrat Barack Obama yesterday laid out a broad plan to help shore up the U.S. economy, saying that a firmer government hand was needed on Wall Street and a $30 billion stimulus was needed to rescue homeowners and the jobless.
Rival Hillary Rodham Clinton, speaking in Raleigh, N.C., called for a new job-retraining program to remedy what both candidates derided as Republican indifference to a sputtering economy.
Both Obama and Clinton argued that Republican nominee-in-waiting John McCain isn't ready or willing to handle an economic emergency.
"The phone is ringing, and he would just let it ring and ring," Clinton said, echoing the "3 a.m. phone call" ad she has used to suggest she was more qualified than Obama to handle a national security crisis.
While the two Democrats share many ideas on what's needed to boost the economy, Obama named six areas in which he would stiffen regulations of the financial system. He proposed relief for homeowners and the long-term unemployed as part of his additional $30 billion stimulus package, much like the one Clinton offered last week.
He said outdated government regulations had fallen dangerously behind the realities of modern finance.
"We do American business, and the American people, no favors when we turn a blind eye to excessive leverage and dangerous risks," he said.
The Illinois senator spoke at the Cooper Union, not far from Wall Street, which has been suffering from the after-effects of the collapse of the housing market.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg warmly introduced Obama but stopped short of an endorsement - something all three presidential candidates are eager to receive.
The economic setbacks of recent months, Obama said, show that hardships long felt by middle-class Americans had now spread everywhere. "Pain trickles up," he said. "If we can extend a hand to banks on Wall Street, we can extend a hand to Americans who are struggling."
Bemoaning the nation's economic woes, Obama, like Clinton, dismissed McCain's approach as pure hands-off. On Tuesday, McCain derided government intervention to save and reward banks or small borrowers who behave irresponsibly, though he offered few immediate alternatives for fixing the country's growing housing crisis.
Obama said McCain's plan "amounts to little more than watching this crisis happen."
Instead, Obama said, the next president should expand oversight to any institution that borrows from the government; toughen capital requirements for complex financial instruments like mortgage securities; and streamline regulatory agencies to end overlap.
While he laid out a half-dozen principles for closer scrutiny of the financial markets, he did not detail how the different agencies should be organized or exactly how the government should go about peering over the shoulders of bank executives, though aides said later that the Federal Reserve would have to assume a greater role.
Although Obama blamed both Republican and Democratic administrations for letting markets get out of control, he took a particular swipe at Clinton's husband, former President Bill Clinton, without naming him explicitly.
Obama said outdated bank regulation needed to be reformed in the 1990s, but "by the time the Glass-Steagall Act was repealed in 1999, the $300 million lobbying effort that drove deregulation was more about facilitating mergers than creating an efficient regulatory framework." President Clinton signed that repeal.
In Raleigh, Hillary Clinton proposed a program to extend federal aid known as Pell Grants to workers enrolled in education programs aimed at updating their skills. She also promoted a preemptive training initiative to allow workers concerned about potential threats to their jobs to receive grants to help transition into other industries.
"While we have been rightly focused on trying to help people who are out of work, there's been too little thought and effort to help people gain new skills while they still have their existing jobs," she said.
North Carolina holds its primary May 6.
In a show of unity
among Republicans, onetime bitter foes John McCain and Mitt Romney raised money and campaigned together in Utah yesterday to help elect McCain president.
"We are united.
Now our job is to energize our party," McCain said in
Salt Lake City.
and promised to do all he could to help, saying: "He is a man who is proven and tested" and the right choice for president.
won 90 percent of the vote in Utah to McCain's 5 percent.
- Associated Press
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