President Bush, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, congressional leaders, the major presidential candidates, and Wall Street bigwigs are all relieved that the House gave final approval today to the financial bailout package.
Count Ralph Nader out of that happy crowd.
"The whole thing was a special interest boondoggle, around the core of a $700 billion blank check," Nader told the Globe this afternoon.
The longtime consumer activist, waging a long-shot presidential campaign for the third consecutive election, asserted that the legislation does not have any comprehensive regulations to stop the Wall Street meltdown from happening again, does not enhance shareholder control over financial institutions, offers no guarantee that taxpayers will get their $700 million stake back ("very doubtful," he said), does not make clear how the bailout will be financed, was larded up with huge tax breaks and other goodies, and does nothing to deal with the spate of foreclosures that stared the crisis.
The package is the wrong way to bailout Wall Street and raises the question if it doesn't work: "What next?"
Instead, Nader supports a Wall Street speculation tax, starting on derivatives, to generate enough money to eliminate federal taxes on the first $50,000 of income.
Nader, who plans a rally at 11 a.m. Sunday at Bowker Auditorium at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, predicted that fed-up voters will go after members of Congress who voted for the package when they return to their home districts to campaign before the November election.
"They're drinking champagne, they've got their pens from Bush, but when they go back home, wait for the hornets nest," he said in a telephone interview.
And that anger, Nader said, will boost his campaign. "It's a big door for us," he said. "....If voters want someone who did them in, they can vote for Obama or McCain."
"We're not just jumping on this," he added, noting that he opposed the 1999 financial deregulation law that many blame, at least in part, for the crisis, and has long predicted the consequences.
Both Barack Obama and John McCain, who voted for the bailout package on Wednesday, have issued statements. The full texts are below.
“America is facing one of the greatest financial crises in history, and today’s passage of an emergency rescue plan was absolutely necessary to prevent an economic catastrophe that could have cost millions of jobs and forced businesses across the country into bankruptcy," Obama said.
“I’m glad that Democrats and Republicans put aside their differences, came together, and took this step. I am also grateful to the House Democrats I personally spoke with who supported this rescue plan. While the Administration initially asked for a blank check to solve this problem, over the last few weeks we were able to include important taxpayer protections to prevent golden parachutes for CEOs, provide independent oversight, help struggling homeowners, and ensure that taxpayers get their money back when the economy recovers.
“Now we must ensure that this Administration uses the authority it has been given wisely and in a way that protects American taxpayers. We also must do more than this rescue package does to help homeowners stay in their homes. And while we will all hope that this rescue package succeeds, we should be prepared to take more vigorous actions in the months ahead to rebuild capital if necessary.
“This is not a moment for celebration, but a sobering day when we found out that three-quarters of a million jobs were lost just this year. Passing this rescue plan cannot be the end of our work to strengthen our economy – it must be the beginning.
“I call on Congress to pass an emergency plan for the middle-class that will help folks cope with rising food and gas prices, save one million jobs by rebuilding our schools and roads, and help states and cities avoid budget cuts and tax increases. It’s a plan that should extend expiring unemployment benefits for those Americans who’ve lost their jobs and cannot find new ones.
“I will also continue to lay out the clear choice in this election between myself and Senator McCain: four more years of policies that have killed jobs and devastated our middle-class, our a change in Washington that will provide tax relief to 95% of workers and create millions of new jobs by investing in clean, renewable energy. It is time to end the era of greed and irresponsibility in Washington and on Wall Street so that we can come together and restore American prosperity from the bottom-up.”
"I commend the House of Representatives for coming together to pass the economic rescue bill today. I'm glad I suspended my campaign to go back to Washington to help bring the House Republicans to the table. I believe that the taxpayer protections that have been added have improved the bill," McCain said.
"This rescue bill is not perfect, and it is an outrage that it's even necessary. But we must stop the damage to our economy done by corrupt and incompetent practices on Wall Street and in Washington.
"The action Congress took today is a tourniquet, not a permanent solution. Our economy is still hurting and further action is needed, and it should not take a crisis to get this Congress to act.
"Washington is still on the wrong track, and we face a stark choice in this election. We can go backwards with job-killing tax hikes, the same old broken partisanship, and out of control spending as Senator Obama would have us do or we can bring real reform to Washington.
"My focus is to reform Washington and put government back on the side of working families with tax relief, modern job training, energy independence, more affordable health care, and policies that get spending under control.
"That's how we're going to get America moving again, and that's exactly what I'm going to do. Thank you and again, I commend the House Republicans for acting in the best interest of our nation."
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.