Posing a number of concerns about the proposed Wall Street bailout, Independence Party candidate for the U.S. Senate Dean Barkley said today that Congress should not vote on a bail-out package before adjourning at the end of the month.
“I know I came out initially on this and said based on the information I got several days ago, based on the accuracy of that information coming out of the White House … I said I would probably have to hold my nose and vote for this package,” Barkley said at a capitol press conference in St. Paul. “Over the last several days I’ve spent a lot of time talking to experts in this area … and every time I talked with these people, more questions than answers came up. That’s why I’m saying, ‘slow down, hold on, we’ve got time.’ The sky is not falling. Let’s do this thing right — if we have to do it.”
Barkley emphasized that he is not advocating that nothing needs to be done to stabilize the current financial turmoil, but he said he didn’t think the plan put forth by Bush administration is “prudent” or “wise.”
“If we have to do something, limit it to what we actually have to do,” he said. “Limit the cost to taxpayers.”
Drawing an analogy between information about Al Qaeda’s presence in Iraq and it’s possession of weapons of mass destruction he was given at a secret briefing by Pentagon officials during his previous 62-day tenure in the Senate, Barkley said he was “skeptical” of administration claims of dire consequences if its bailout package were not approve quickly.
Responding to questions, Barkley rhetorically asked why the administration, which “knew for a long time this was coming,” waited until seven days before Congress was scheduled to adjourn before presenting its plan.
“I think it’s incredible that they waited this long if things were this bad,” he said. “I’m glad that Congress is pushing back. I really am.”
“Based on my experience of getting information from the Bush administration, I would be skeptical to believe just because they say it’s so, it is so,” Barkley said. “That’s why I’m asking these questions. What proof is there?”
A campaign press release noted that while the stock market has been volatile and major Wall Street players like AIG have floundered in recent weeks, there are signs that business is continuing as it should in other areas without government intervention. Barclay’s purchased Lehman Brothers, Bank of America purchased Merrill Lynch, Berkshire Hathaway invested $5 billion in Goldman Sachs, and Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group invested $4.8 billion in Morgan Stanley. The financial arm of Caterpillar was oversubscribed on its $1.3 billion corporate bond sale.
Barkley also dismissed an idea suggested by Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., that government could get a 10 to 20 times return on the $700 billion bailout package.
“That would be a great way to balance out federal debt,” Barkley said somewhat facetiously, “But I don’t believe that to be the case.
“I know we’re in trouble right now because of our misdeeds of the past six to eight years,” Barkley added. “It’s coming home to roost, but let’s make sure we don’t kill what we’re trying to fix. There are consequences. If you put $700 billion in bonds out there, every town in Minnesota that wants to build anything that has to be bonded in state (the cost) is going to go up. The price of money is going to go up. What are the unintended consequences of (the plan)? This has to be discussed.
“As long as the Fed is still able to provide adequate liquidity as ‘lender of last resort,’ and credit is still flowing to qualified borrowers, I don’t see a need for immediate action,” Barkley said. “The worst thing Congress can do right now is rush through a massive bail-out before adjourning in just a few days. Let’s take a while to breathe, talk to voters over the next month and get a better handle on how the economic indicators are shaking out before we hand over hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars to Wall Street titans.”
‘They let this happen’
In response to a question, Barkley noted that while he doesn’t wish economic ill on the United States, the current situation helps him make his case that something isn’t right in Washington.
“Obviously this makes it easier for me to make the case,” he said. “Where have they [Congress] been? How did they let this happen? It’s just another example of Congress’s inability to do anything right. Both Democrats and Republicans were asleep on the switch on this one. They let this happen. They let that industry [investment banking] go unregulated. This is another example of how badly we’ve been governed over the last 20 years.”
Later Barkley emphasized that in terms of the broader economy the number one issue is reducing the deficit. He repeated his pledge to introduce legislation proposing a four-year cap on spending. Before any new spending can be approved, a like amount of spending must be cut. The United States also needs to become energy independent, Barkly added. He supports cutting subsidies to oil companies and using the money to invest in alternate sources of energy and working with the auto industry to ensure they “build the kind of cars people want.” He finds things to like in the energy plan being touted by T. Boone Pickens. http://www.pickensplan.com/index.php
“We’re the first generation in American history that is going to give a worse off situation to our kids,” Barkley said. “We ought to be ashamed of ourselves because we let it happen. I got into this in 1992 [when he ran for and lost a race for Congress] when we had a deficit of $2.3 trillion, and now we’re going to be at $11.3 trillion if this plan passes. How much more can we stand?”
Asked about the negative advertising of Coleman and DFL Senate candidate Al Franken, Barkley noted that historically negative advertising generally works in a two-party race because voters have no other alternative.
“In this race voters have another place to go,” he said. “It’s called ‘me.'”