Obama To Unveil Financial Meltdown Fix

Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama is promising new ideas to calm the crisis in the financial industry. He's expected to unveil a new economic proposal Friday in Florida. Obama reached out to Hispanic voters in New Mexico Thursday telling them this is not the time to panic, instead, it's a time for leadership.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

It's no surprise that the economy is dominating the presidential campaign this week. Democrat Barack Obama is meeting this morning with his economic advisers to discuss what he calls a more stable and permanent solution to turmoil on the financial markets. Republican John McCain is calling for a new agency to help troubled banks and other financial institutions unload bad debt. We have two reports this morning, beginning with NPR's Scott Horsley.

SCOTT HORSLEY: Barack Obama says ordinary Americans have been suffering through hard times longer than Wall Street has. He got a reminder of that in New Mexico yesterday, when he stopped into the Range Cafe in the town of Bernalillo.

Senator BARACK OBAMA (Democrat, Illinois; 2008 Democratic Presidential Nominee): How are you?

Unidentified Man: How are you, sir?

Sen. OBAMA: Good, yourself? That's your mom? Looking good.

(Soundbite of laughter)

HORSLEY: Obama and his staffers ordered four enchiladas, Christmas-style, with red and green chili, then shook hands with some of the customers. The cafe is popular for its unpretentious food and the local artwork on display. But on this day, most of the tables in the large dining room were empty.

Ms. LYNN BLADERGROEN (Manager, Range Cafe, Bernalillo, New Mexico): Yeah, it's a little slow. Well, the economy has definitely hit our business.

HORSLEY: Manager Lynn Bladergroen (ph) says the November election is a big one for that reason. She'll be voting for Obama.

Ms. BLADERGROEN: He's my hope we will get through this, and I think we will. But it's scary. I have two sons that are 23 and 25, and it's their future I'm concerned with. So...

(Soundbite of campaign speech, September 18, 2008)

Sen. OBAMA: Here's what we need to do, three primary goals we need to accomplish...

HORSLEY: Later that afternoon in Espanola, New Mexico, Obama said the country needs to shore up the capital in its financial system, make sure banks and other businesses have the credit they need to keep operating, and help struggling homeowners restructure their mortgages on more affordable terms. Speaking in the town's main plaza, Obama said instead of improvising day-to-day fixes as it has been, the government needs to offer more long-lasting relief.

Sen. OBAMA: We've made a good start, but we need to do much, much more. We cannot forget that there are many homeowners who are in crisis through no fault of their own, and a solution that does not have been at its core is no solution at all.

HORSLEY: Obama argues that he's been talking about this kind of consumer protection for a long time, while Republican rival John McCain was downplaying government's role in fixing the mortgage mess.

Sen. OBAMA: When I was warning about the danger I had on Wall Street months ago, because of the lack of oversight, Senator McCain was telling the Wall Street Journal, and I quote, "I am always for less regulation."

HORSLEY: This week, as the stock market plunged and major financial institutions were shaken, McCain has been calling for government to play a more active role and promising to get rid of regulators he says were asleep at the switch. Obama dismisses his opponent's newfound interest in government regulation, joking that McCain no longer knows if he's Barry Goldwater or Dennis Kucinich.

Sen. OBAMA: Now, all of a sudden, he has become a populist. Now he's unleashed an angry tirade against all the insiders and lobbyists who happened to have supported him for the last 26 years.

HORSLEY: One of the insiders McCain went after yesterday was Christopher Cox, the former Republican congressman who now chairs the Securities and Exchange Commission. McCain said if he were president, he would fire Cox. But Obama says it's time to go further.

Sen. OBAMA: In the next 47 days, you can fire the whole trickle-down...

(Soundbite of crowd cheering)

Sen. OBAMA: On-your-own, look-the-other-way crowd in Washington, who has lead us down this disastrous path. Don't just get rid of one guy. Get rid of this administration. Get rid of this philosophy. Get rid of the do-nothing approach to our economic problems, and put somebody in there who's going to fight for you.

(Soundbite of crowd cheering)

HORSLEY: Obama says he's confident the nation's financial course can be corrected, but he says that won't happen with a new driver who wants to follow the same old map. Scott Horsley, NPR News.

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