Obama Takes Economic Message To Detroit

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Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama was in Detroit Sunday speaking to more than 35,000 people at a rally. With the domestic auto industry continuing to shed jobs, this is a place where deep worries about the U.S. economy started well before the Wall Street crisis. The Illinois senator put the blame for the financial crisis on President Bush and the Republicans.


It's Morning Edition from NPR News. Renee Montagne is away, I'm Steve Inskeep. President Bush says it is a bold bill that will address the root cause of the financial crisis. And he's calling on Congress to pass a $700-billion financial bailout package.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: Congress can send a strong signal to markets at home and abroad by passing this bill promptly. Every member of Congress and every Americans should keep in mind. A vote for this bill is a vote to prevent economic damage to you and your community.

INSKEEP: That's President Bush speaking today at the White House. Both major party presidential candidates say they expect to support the financial bailout. John McCain and Barack Obama had avoided taking a firm stand until now. But both approved of the plan to stabilize the financial industry. McCain stayed in Washington on Sunday, making phone calls to lawmakers. Obama made calls from the road, and he also held a big rally in Detroit, which has had its own financial trouble over the years. We begin our reporting with NPR's Don Gonyea.

DON GONYEA: More than 35,000 people turned out to hear Barack Obama in this city, on a perfect fall Sunday in Michigan.

Senator BARACK OBAMA (Democrat, Illinois, Presidential Candidate): Hello, Detroit.

GONYEA: With the domestic automobile industry continuing to shed jobs, this is a place where deep worries about the U.S. economy did not start with the current crisis on Wall Street. Obama, joined by his running mate Joe Biden, stood on a stage erected in the middle of Woodward Avenue, the city's main thoroughfare.

Senator OBAMA: And I know these are difficult days and nowhere had they've been even more difficult than in Michigan. Nowhere had they've been even more difficult than in Detroit. The auto industry knows something about hard times, so I know it's been hard. But here's what I also know. I know we can steer ourselves out of this crisis because that's who we are.

GONYEA: Obama praise the deal to bailout the financial industry and in a statement from his campaign indicated he would support it. In Detroit, Obama stressed that the legislation addresses his basic concerns. Including guarantees that taxpayers will be treated like investors and that there are rules to make sure CEOs are not being rewarded at taxpayers' expense.

Still Obama said that the agreement is hardly a reason for celebration. And he put the blame for the crisis squarely on the Bush administration and on Republicans for pursuing deregulation at the expense of oversight. He also used the rally in Detroit to drive home the point that using tax dollars to bail out these giant investment firms makes it critical that the United States step up for the little guy as well.

(Soundbite of cheering crowd)

Senator OBAMA: We just don't need a plan for bankers and investors. We need a plan for auto workers, we need a plan for teachers, we need a plan for small business owners.

GONYEA: For Senator Obama, it's a chance to attack John McCain as one who have long favored aggressive deregulation. There are indications that the pitch is playing well in Michigan, with polls showing Obama opening up a sizable lead in the state. Don Gonyea, NPR News.

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