September 20, 2008

Obama Meets US Economic Woes Head on

PRESIDENTIAL candidate Barack Obama today turned to some of the most respected names in the business world for fresh ideas to end the US financial upheaval and win the confidence of voters.

Mr Obama's meeting with top economic figures from former President Bill Clinton's administration - including former Treasury secretaries Robert Rubin and Lawrence Summers - also served as a reminder of the better days of the US economy during the last Democratic administration.

The economy has been American voters' top issue for months, and that concern has grown as the stock market gyrates wildly and American financial giants go out of business or struggle to survive.

Mr Obama has seen a bump in the polls over his Republican rival John McCain.

Mr McCain has been battling to differentiate himself from unpopular President George Bush and his economic policies and to square his long history of advocating deregulation with voter concerns about the tumult in the US financial landscape.

Today Mr McCain called on the Federal Reserve to stop bailing out failed financial institutions. He said the Fed should get back to what he called "its core business of responsibly managing our money supply and inflation".

The Fed engineered an 85 billion dollar takeover of insurance giant American International Group this week, one of a series of failures of major financial companies that rocked Wall Street. The government seized control of mortgage giants Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae earlier this month.

He also lashed out at Mr Obama for having ties to Freddie Mac's former CEO, who briefly headed Mr Obama's vice presidential search committee. The Illinois senator has also received campaign contributions from both agencies.

"Maybe just this once he could spare us the lectures, and admit to his own poor judgment in contributing to these problems," Mr McCain said of Mr Obama.

Mr McCain has consistently claimed that Mr Obama is too inexperienced to sit in the White House. Less than seven weeks before election day, Mr Obama's high-profile consultations appear designed to combat that image, portraying him in a presidential- like setting, grappling with the country's most serious problems and making decisions with a big-name team of experts.

The list included billionaire investor Warren Buffett, former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker and Laura Tyson, the former head of the Council of Economic Advisers under Clinton.

It also includes Mr Bush's first Treasury Secretary, Paul O'Neill, who became a critic of the administration.

Still smarting from the derision brought on by his Monday assessment that US economic fundamentals were strong, Mr McCain is calling for the firing of Christopher Cox, the Bush appointee who leads the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

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