NEW YORK - The George W. Bush administration's plan to spend hundreds
of billions of dollars to rescue giant Wall Street firms from their
current financial meltdown has unleashed a spontaneous wave of protests
across the United States.
"Cash for trash," shouted activists
who gathered near Wall Street to express their outrage at Bush's
proposal to buy bad debts of financial institutions at the cost of 700
billion dollars of taxpayer money.
Protesters said they want the Congress to protect millions of
U.S. citizens who are on the verge of losing their homes due to bad
lending practices of creditors instead of doling out public money to
big investment firms responsible for ruining the economy.
"People are up in arms about this," Matt Holland of the
TrueMajority.org, an advocacy group comprising 700,000 members that
played a major role in organising the protests, told IPS. "Our members
are livid. They're hitting the streets."
According to the group, thousands of people in more than 190
cities and towns across the country took part in demonstrations against
the corporate bailout bill proposed by U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry
Paulson last Friday.
The four-page draft bill, which is currently under discussion
on Capitol Hill, did not initially require any legal and financial
measures to protect homeowners from possible foreclosures, nor did it
put any limits on the salaries of the corporate executives -- although
legislators say that has since been amended.
On Thursday, Democratic and Republican lawmakers declared they
were close to reaching a deal on a modified version of the bill, but
still there was no indication if it would pass the Senate and the
"While many are focused on providing relief to the Wall
Street, millions of homeowners are at risk of being left behind," said
Janet Murgula, president of the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), the
nation's largest Hispanic civil rights group.
To Murgula, "it is irresponsible public policy to ask
taxpayers to foot the bill for a Wall Street rescue package while
simultaneously denying them a sustainable response to the devastation
the rising foreclosures rate is having throughout the country."
Independent presidential candidate and populist consumer advocate Ralph Nader agrees.
"The public outrage out there is really enormous," he said in
an interview with the left-wing television programme Democracy Now!,
calling the Bush proposal "a double standard between the guys at the
top and the people who are going to have to pay the bills."
But President Bush does not think there is anything thing wrong with his proposal.
"I understand there's a lot of nervousness, and -- but the
economy is growing, productivity is high, trade's up," he said in a
televised speech Wednesday. "People are working. It's not as good as we
would like, but -- and to the extent that we find weakness, we'll
To Nader, there is no logic in Bush's remarks. "I mean, look
at all his statements: this could do this, this would do that, farms
failing, small business, tada, tada," he said. "The first question we
have to ask as citizens is: why is there a need for a bailout?
"If there is a need for a bailout, why 700 billion dollars?"
he asked. "If there is a need for a bailout, what kind of bailout?
Taxpayer equity? So the taxpayer can recover if these companies make a
profit, they can recover surplus."
On Thursday, at the invitation of President Bush, both
presidential hopefuls Barack Obama and John McCain attended a meeting
at the White House to discuss the current financial crisis facing the
Wall Street. However, it remains unclear to what extent they agreed on
the Paulson bill.
Latest reports from Hill suggest that members of the both
political parties on the legislative committee on banking agreed to put
limits on the pay of corporate executives, but there was no news about
protection for vulnerable low-income homeowners.
While proposals continue to evolve and be debated, according
to NCLR, a pro-homeowner package must include a model for the broad,
systematic modification of failing mortgages, which is the best way to
keep working families in their homes.
"Unless we respond to the needs of millions of struggling
homeowners," said NCLR's Murgula, "a rising inventory of foreclosed
homes will continue to overload the market, pushing housing prices down