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On the Trail / ON THE BAILOUT

Obama sounds populist tone

September 25, 2008|Peter Nicholas

DUNEDIN, FLA. — Laying out proposals for the Wall Street bailout, Barack Obama is putting special focus on the distinctly populist idea that Wall Street executives should not reap excess profits.

The notion is popular with the crowds, and as he appeared before 11,000 people at a baseball stadium here Wednesday, Obama devoted some of his most colorful language to wealthy financiers at the center of the financial crisis.

"The American people should not be spending one dime to reward the same Wall Street CEOs whose greed and irresponsibility got us into this mess," Obama said.

And later: "I will not allow this plan to become a welfare program for Wall Street executives. No way, no how."

Obama mocked Republican rival John McCain, who has also called for bailout measures that would limit executive pay: "He is suddenly a hard-charging populist!"

Invoking a McCain advisor, former Hewlett-Packard Chief Executive Carly Fiorina, Obama said: "I sure wish he felt the same outrage on CEO pay when his top economic advisor, whom he calls a role model, walked away with a $42-million pay package after being fired from Hewlett-Packard."

Amid a souring economy, Obama is looking to gain traction by empathizing with average voters.

And he offered more hints that the financial crisis may force him to scale back his spending plans. Obama has called for $130 billion in new spending proposals, along with a middle class tax cut that works out to $80 billion a year.

"I've presented how we can make these investments and achieve these things in a fiscally responsible way," Obama told the crowd. "And it's going to be harder now -- because of all the irresponsibility that's taken place on Wall Street.

"So . . . we're going to have to make good choices. We're going to have to prioritize how we spend our money."

-- Peter Nicholas

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