Both Democratic presidential contenders are all about the faltering economy today, focusing on the pocketbook issue on which the party's hopes in the fall could rest.
Barack Obama started it off with what his campaign billed as a major speech in New York City in which he called for aiding homeowners caught in the housing crisis, updating financial regulations, and pumping $30 billion more into the economy and help protect families from the economic slowdown..
"Each American does better when all Americans do better," he said, but the country has lost that a sense of share prosperity.
Deregulation pushed by corporations that gave large sums to politicians led to a "winner-take-all, anything goes environment" that has harmed the economy, he said.
"Under Republican and Democratic administrations, we've failed to guard against practices that all too often rewarded financial manipulation instead of productivity and sound business practices," said the Illinois senator, who was introduced by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and spoke to an audience that included former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker. "We let the special interests put their thumbs on the economic scales. The result has been a distorted market that creates bubbles instead of steady, sustainable growth; a market that favors Wall Street over Main Streets, but ends up hurting both."
Obama also criticized both President Bush and John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, saying neither is proposing enough to deal with the housing crisis.
"His main proposal -- extending tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans -- is completely divorced from the reality that people are facing around the country," Obama said of the president. "John McCain recently announced his own plan, and it amounts to little more than watching this crisis happen. While this is consistent with Senator McCain’s determination to run for George Bush’s third term, it won’t help families who are suffering, and it won’t help lift our economy out of recession."
McCain just issued a statement that reiterated his Tuesday speech that he would consider any responsible proposal. "I believe the role of government is to help the truly needy, prevent systemic economic risk, and enact reforms that prevent the kind of crisis we are currently experiencing from ever happening again," he said in the statement. "Those reforms should focus on improving transparency and accountability in our capital markets -- both of which were lacking in the lead-up to the current situation.
"However, what is not necessary is a multi-billion dollar bailout for big banks and speculators, as Senators Clinton and Obama have proposed. There is a tendency for liberals to seek big government programs that sock it to American taxpayers while failing to solve the very real problems we face."
In Raleigh, N.C., Hillary Clinton offered a $12.5 billion, five-year initiative to rebuild the middle class by helping laid-off workers and boosting job training. The program includes about $2 billion a year for worker retraining and $500 million a year in grants for on-the-job training.
"We are competing in a new global economy, but our policies to equip American worker for the twenty-first century are stuck back in the twentieth. When it comes to retraining assistance, our government is more focused on how you lost your job than how you can find a new one," Clinton said in a statement. "And 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 – so they can move up or move on to higher-wage positions."
Clinton said the next president needs to aggressively work to boost the economy -- in stark contrast, she said, to President Bush. Clinton also took her shots at McCain.
"It's time for a president who is ready on day one to be the commander-in-chief of our economy. Sometimes the phone rings at 3 a.m. in the White House, and it’s an economic crisis," she said, alluding to her much-played TV ad about an international emergency.
"And we need a president who is ready and willing and able to answer that call. I read the speech that Senator McCain gave the other day which set forth his plan which does virtually nothing to ease the credit crisis or the housing crisis. It seems like if the phone were ringing, he would just let it ring and ring and ring.
"Senator McCain is a friend of mine and I admire his service to our country greatly. But he recently admitted, 'The issue of economics is not something I’ve understood as well as I should.' And it turns out he’d rather ignore the credit crisis and mortgage crisis -- or blame middle-class families instead of offering solutions on their behalf."
The middle class is being hammered by bad policies and decisions that are causing lost jobs and lower wages. "You pay the price," she said at Wake Technical Community College, where she praised local and state workforce development programs in North Carolina.
Her husband, Bill Clinton, followed the mantra, "It's the economy, stupid," all the way to the White House in 1992.