John McCain photo

Remarks in Tampa, Florida

September 16, 2008

If Governor Palin and I are elected in 49 days, we are not going to waste a moment in changing the way Washington does business. And we're going to start where the need for reform is greatest. In short order, we are going put an end to the reckless conduct, corruption, and unbridled greed that have caused a crisis on Wall Street.

The working people of this state and this nation are the most innovative, the hardest working, the best skilled, most productive, most competitive in the world. This foundation of our economy, the American worker, is strong but it has been put at risk by the greed and mismanagement of Wall Street and Washington. The top of our economy is broken. We have seen self interest, greed, irresponsibility and corruption undermine the hard work of the American people. It is time to set things right, and I promise to get the job done as your president.

Americans put a lot of trust in the bankers and brokerage firms of Wall Street. They depend on the financial service sector to protect their savings, IRA's, 401k's, and pension accounts. But many leaders in finance have proven unworthy of that trust. Government has a clear responsibility to act in defense of the public interests, and that is exactly what I intend to do. We are going to make sure that American's accounts are protected. I pledge that FDIC and SPIC will have all the support they need to fully back the savings of the American people.

Too many people on Wall Street have been recklessly wagering instead of making the sound investments we expected of them. And when their companies collapse, only the CEO's seem to escape the consequences. While employees, shareholders, and other victims are left with nothing but trouble and debt, the people who helped cause the collapse make off with tens of millions in severance packages. I have spoken out against the excess of corporate executives, and I can assure you that if I am president, we're not going to tolerate that anymore. In my administration, we're going to hold people on Wall Street responsible. And we're going to enact and enforce reforms to make sure that these outrages never happen in the first place.

Too many people on Wall Street have forgotten or disregarded the basic rules of sound finance. In an endless quest for easy money, they dreamed up investment schemes that they themselves don't even understand. With their derivatives, credit default swaps, and mortgage backed securities they tried to make their own rules. But they could only avoid the basic rules of economics for so long. Now, as their schemes unravel in bankruptcies and collapse, it's once again the public who is left to bear the costs. And I promise you that on my watch, we are never going to let these kinds of abuses go uncorrected or unpunished.

Too many practices on Wall Street have been kept hidden from public view, to buy time and postpone the inevitable reckoning. Bad investments were made even worse, and risks allowed to multiply, by keeping them off the books. Derivatives, mortgage backed securities, and other complicated instruments often disguised foolish investments and were sold to insurance companies, pension funds, mutual funds, banks and individuals. When the housing markets collapsed and the value of these securities went way down, our banks couldn't pay their debts. We saw Bear Stearns collapse, followed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. More recently Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy, and a troubled Merrill Lynch was sold to Bank of America in order to survive. And now we have other banks and insurance companies at risk.

So much of the loss and damage to our economy could have been avoided if these practices had been exposed to the light of day. People have a right to know when their jobs, pensions, investments, and our whole economy are being put at risked by the recklessness of Wall Street. And under my reforms for the financial sector, that fundamental right will be protected.

Too many firms on Wall Street have been able to count on casual oversight by regulatory agencies in Washington. And there are so many of those regulators that the responsibility for oversight is scattered, unfocussed and ineffective. Among others, we've got the SEC, the CFTC, the FDIC, the SPIC and the OCC. But for all their big and impressive sounding names, the fact is they haven't been doing their job right, or else we wouldn't have these massive problems on Wall Street. At their worse, they've been caught up in Washington turf wars instead of working together to protect investors and the public interests. And we don't need a dozen federal agencies doing the job badly – we need the best federal agencies to do the job right.

Under my reforms, the American people will be protected by comprehensive regulations that will apply the rules and enforce them to the full. There will be constant access to the books and accounts of our banks and other financial institutions. By law, it will reduce the debt and risk that any bank can take on. And above all, I promise reforms to prevent the kind of wild speculation that can put our markets at risk, and has already inflicted such enormous damage across our economy.

Two years ago, I warned the administration and the Congress that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac needed to be fixed, and it turns out the problem was even bigger. They waited too long and now we have a housing crisis, three bailouts with taxpayers' money, and a financial crisis. As for the Congress, members in both parties must accept a share of the responsibility. Some members seemed to measure the financial health of banks and lenders by the size of their political contributions, instead of the extent of their debt. They listened to the lobbyists, instead of to the accountants. I can promise you the days of dealing and special favors will soon be over, and in a McCain-Palin administration the public interest will always come first.

Honest people on Wall Street – and there are many – will have a friend in the White House when I am president. The financial services industry plays a vital and honorable role in our economy, and I will seek reforms to help them to serve their shareholders and employees. But when any Wall Street operator abuses the trust of the public, then they will face the consequences, and they will have a fight on their hands with the president of the United States.

I will fight to reform Wall Street and to protect the savings and pensions of the American people. I will make sure that Washington works for your interests, and not the special interests. I will fight to make it easier for small business owners everywhere to grow and hire. I will fight to make sure you can afford a home loan or a student loan or a small business loan. I will fight to make sure we create more jobs here at home and prosperity for all Americans.

John McCain, Remarks in Tampa, Florida Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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