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Seattle Times Political Caucus

The Seattle Times Political Caucus is an online community aimed at adding diverse voices to our coverage of politics. How we'll use the Caucus will evolve over time. But the idea is to create a conversation with people of various backgrounds and political beliefs. As the election season unfolds, we'll ask participants to weigh in on key political questions and then post their comments here.

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September 19, 2008 4:02 PM

The candidates and the economy

Posted by Katherine Long

It's been a week of financial upheaval and political warfare, as the U.S. economy faced the worst financial crisis in decades, the stock market plunged up and down, and President Bush called it "a pivotal moment for America's economy."

We asked the Seattle Times Political Caucus: What do you need to hear from the two presidential candidates that would convince you they have the ability and a plan to tackle the nation's current economic crisis? Have you heard anything yet from the candidates that assures you they are prepared to tackle this problem?

Read all of their answers here.

Many caucus members aren't convinced that either candidate has the answers -- and neither has addressed the issue in an honest and refreshing way.

Dave Hamilton of Bellevue "would find it convincing if one would step up and admit that the economy is complex and its problems are complex and so too are the fixes. Then I want to hear that he has put a team together and that he and his team will spend much of the first 100 days working with the opposition to come up with a plan to fix our economic troubles."

Hamilton continues: "The fix must include a reasonable amount regulation and oversight -- certainly more than we have had for the last 8 years. If taxpayers are running the risk of having to step in and bail out private companies then we have the right to insist on certain regulations and oversight that minimize our exposure."

Paul Graves of Queen Anne is also looking for a specific message. "I will trust the candidate who says this: 'When the government puts up taxpayer money to bail out companies, we will treat it like a bank failure. We will wipe out the equity holders (who have earned a higher rate of return in exchange for their higher risk), fire the board of directors and top managers, pay off bondholders and creditors, and then sell whatever assets remain as quickly and profitably as possible.'"

And Graves thinks neither man seems like he's yet up to the task. "John McCain sounded like yesterday was the first time he heard the phrase 'mortgage backed securities,' " Graves wrote. "And Barack Obama essentially admitted he had never heard of the Laffer Curve when George Stephonopolous asked him about marginal tax rates on investment income last year. It's safe to say that if I were put in charge of finding one person to head a national fix the economy group, neither Senator would make it on my short list."

Megan Gustafson of Redmond is also looking for the candidates to acknowledge that the economy is complex, and many players are involved. "The candidate admitting that much is beyond their control would be honest," she wrote. "Then explaining how they will approach the economy during their Presidency as we would believe they will need to surround themselves with people who do study the economy, work with all the players and evaluate the options as they come. We have to trust their judgment and ability to work well with others for them to help the economy."

David Wakeman of New York is also not convinced that either candidate has the right answers, although he finds Obama's words more reassuring: "It seems that John McCain is completely at a loss. I don't trust his opinion because earlier in the campaign, he said he didn't really have a good grasp on economic issues and that he needed to read Alan Greenspan's book to catch up on economic issues. Now he is coming out, pointing fingers at what went wrong as opposed to laying out some type of plan that might be beneficial to getting the economy back on firm footing.

"Senator Obama seems to have a better grasp," Wakeman wrote, "if only because he isn't making radical statements and seems to be gathering his advisors to get the best advice that he can."

Among those who thought Obama gave the best answers this week, Jon Smith of Tacoma wrote that the country's financial policies have benefited the wealthiest Americans for decades. "What I need to hear is that they will reject most of the economic thinking we've engaged in for not just the last eight years, but twenty eight years, when Ronald Reagan began the neo-con revolution and the "ownership economy." Obama has it right -- that turn took us into the woods, where unions were busted, the corporate interests destroyed collective bargaining and then shifted their source of labor overseas."

Dan Rosson of Seattle "would like to hear Obama get very specific. If he can pull that off I believe the election is his. As dire as the economy is I believe it is going to be a gift to Obama's presidential hopes."

Bob Clark of Monroe thinks McCain's experience makes him best prepared to deal with the issues: "McCain was deeply involved in the Savings and Loan crisis some years ago and he was one of the sponsors of the establishment of the Resolution Trust Corporation. I am firmly committed to vote for John McCain for President because, after hearing his thoughts, I believe we need someone with maturity, experience and ability to deal with these very serious matters."

Anita Willemse of Seattle also likes McCain's approach. "I believe Senator McCain has already proposed a bipartisan commission to investigate and then move forward based on recommendations of the commission. He had a bit of foresight with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac back in 2006 when he co-sponsored the Federal Housing Enterprise Regulatory Reform Act. "

And Woodrow Alford of Sedro-Woolley also looks to McCain to solve the issues. "McCain has the experience of dealing with the Washington inner circle and has demonstrated the ability to work with the Democrats to solve problems. Obama does not have that experience nor has he demonstrated an ability to solve complex problems."

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