Candidates talk finances

The Baltimore Sun

CORAL GABLES, Fla. - Acutely aware of the delicate nature of the situation and its increasingly central role in the presidential race, both candidates moved cautiously yesterday in their proposals for what to do about the financial crisis on Wall Street.

Democratic Sen. Barack Obama and Republican Sen. John McCain both called for bipartisanship amid a search for government remedies on a day when the Department of Treasury said it was crafting a plan to rescue banks from billions of dollars in bad debt.

McCain also said the Federal Reserve needs to stop bailing out failed financial institutions and stick to its core mission of managing the nation's money supply.

Obama, for his part, said the Treasury and Federal Reserve need "as broad authority as is necessary" to stabilize markets and maintain credit.

With the Wall Street bailouts expected to cost hundreds of billions, the economy could easily remain shaky for whomever becomes the next president. Still, Obama told reporters he would push for tax cuts.

"Now more than ever, we've got to have the kind of broad-based, middle-class tax cut that I've talked about," the Illinois senator said. "I think it is very important that even as we stabilize the financial system that we understand that people have been hurting long before Wall Street was hurting."

Obama has said he would raise taxes on people making more than $250,000 a year and would cut taxes on the middle class. McCain restated his claim that Obama had voted to raise taxes on people who make $42,000 a year - a claim that has been widely debunked by nonpartisan fact-check organizations.

Asked later whether a struggling economy would hamper his domestic agenda should he be elected, an Obama aide dismissed such suggestions.

"He's not going to sacrifice a health plan or an energy plan," said Jason Furman, Obama's economic policy director.

After meeting with his top economic advisers yesterday morning, Obama said this was not the time to present specific details for his plan to fix the immediate problem, a reversal from what aides had indicated a day earlier.

"You don't put together something like that on the come," he said, referencing a gambling term. "You don't do it in a day. We've got to do it in an intelligent, systematic, thoughtful fashion."

Obama senior adviser Robert Gibbs said the decision to not offer more specifics was made in the interest of bipartisanship, not because of any specific requests by Treasury or Federal Reserve officials.

"We're a candidate and a legislator here," Gibbs said, noting that Obama is still waiting to see details of the Treasury plan.

During a rally at the University of Miami designed to woo female voters, Obama suggested that McCain is "a little panicked" because he has lost some ground in recent state and national polls. "At this point, he seems to be willing to say anything or do anything," he said.

Each side criticized the other for fundraising and other ties to lobbyists and executives from the housing and financial services sector.

McCain noted the Illinois senator had taken large campaign contributions from both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and that the one-time head of Obama's vice presidential search team, Jim Johnson, had received a $21 million severance deal after stepping down as Fannie Mae CEO. McCain's campaign released a new television ad yesterday hitting Obama for his connection to Johnson.

The Arizona senator neglected to say that some of his closest advisers had ties to or lobbied for the home loan giants.

McCain is correct when he says Obama is the No. 2 recipient of campaign money from employees of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Obama has collected $126,349 from those sources, according to a compilation by the Center for Responsive Politics, second only to Senate Banking Committee Chairman Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, a Connecticut Democrat who has received $165,400. The ranking covers the period since 1989.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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