Congressional leaders say they’re making progress toward a bailout of the nation’s ailing financial system, but Iowa Senator Tom Harkin says he’s not optimistic about the current plan they’re being “stampeded” into passing. Harkin, a Democrat, skewers President Bush, the Treasury Secretary and the chairman of the Federal Reserve over the original proposal for a 700-billion dollar bailout.
Harkin says, “Mr. Paulson and Mr. Bernanke and the administration, they have generated on Wall Street a panic mode that if we don’t do this, then everything’s going to go to hell in a hand basket immediately and there won’t be any credit, so, the credit markets basically, essentially have dried up.”
Harkin and other members of Congress met Wednesday night with Secretary Paulson and Harkin says Paulson offered no room for deviation from the original 700-billion dollar plan. President Bush has agreed to change the proposal so executives of teetering financial companies won’t get “golden parachute” paychecks, which many Democrats see as a big step toward compromise.
Harkin says the plan still needs a tremendous amount of work. “The administration’s strategy says, ‘Trust me, trust us,’ and to stampede this bailout package through Congress by the end of the week,” Harkin says. “They say that their package is the only solution and we’ve gotta’ risk Armageddon if we fail to act in the next couple of days.”
Harkin says the Bush plan is not the only plan: “A number of excellent alternatives have surfaced and it would be extremely unwise for the Senate to allow itself to being railroaded into passing a flawed bill. We need to slow this train down. We need to build it as both rescue and reform.”
As for Friday night’s first scheduled presidential debate between Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama, Harkin says the topics of national security and foreign policy ought to be chucked in favor of an open discussion on the economy and each candidate’s solutions to this mess. “Make this one on the economy, since that’s the big issue right now,” Harkin says. “Let McCain and Obama tell us what they think and how they think we ought to go ahead on the economy.”