America will face “financial panic” and a “long and painful recession” unless the US Congress fails to pass a rescue package immediately, President George Bush said today.
Mr Bush said the United States needed to put its economy “back on track” as Congress was considering a $700bn (€474bn) rescue plan to tackle the “extraordinary” financial crisis gripping the nation.
In his televised prime-time address to the nation, the president also confirmed he had invited both presidential candidates and the leaders of the House and Senate to the White House in a bid to secure the bill to rescue the foundering US economy.
The rescue package, which has caused serious concerns due to the amount of taxpayers’ money involved and the unprecedented private sector intervention, was aimed at “preserving America’s overall economy”, not saving individual companies, Mr Bush said.
America would face a “long and painful recession” if Congress failed to act and “major sectors of America’s financial system are at risk of shutting down”, he said.
“Our entire economy is in danger.”
These were “not normal circumstances” and “without immediate action by Congress, America could slip into a financial panic,” Mr Bush said.
He added that the US needed to send a signal around the world that America’s financial system was “back on track”.
“Our economy is facing a moment of great challenge, but we’ve overcome tough challenges before and we will overcome this one,” Mr Bush said.
“I know that Americans sometimes get discouraged by the tone in Washington, and their seemingly endless partisan struggles, yet history has shown that in times of real struggle, elected officials rise to the occasion.
“And together we will show the world what kind of country America is – a nation that tackles problems head on, where leaders come together to meet great tests, and where people of every background can work hard, develop their talents and realise their dreams.”
His speech aimed to explain the rescue package, and the need for it, to the American public, but also to keep pressure on frustrated and angry lawmakers to work out a bipartisan deal quickly.
Mr Bush said the goal was to help the US government to buy up troubled assets so that credit could start flowing again and the economy would rebound.
He also explicitly endorsed several of the changes that have been demanded in recent days from the right and left of the political spectrum.
But he warned that he would draw the line at regulations he determined would hamper economic growth.
Earlier, presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain issued a joint statement on the troubled economy, which has seen great upheaval in recent days.
“The American people are facing a moment of economic crisis,” it said. “No matter how this began, we all have a responsibility to work through it and restore confidence in our economy.
“The jobs, savings, and prosperity of the American people are at stake.”
It went on: “Now is a time to come together – Democrats and Republicans – in a spirit of cooperation for the sake of the American people.
“The plan that has been submitted to Congress by the Bush Administration is flawed, but the effort to protect the American economy must not fail.
“This is a time to rise above politics for the good of the country. We cannot risk an economic catastrophe.
“Now is our chance to come together to prove that Washington is once again capable of leading this country.”
White House press secretary Dana Perino said the goal of the president’s unusual meeting with Mr Obama and Mr McCain later today would be to make quick progress on a bipartisan solution to the biggest economic crisis in decades in the US.
She said the call between Mr Bush and Mr Obama lasted several minutes and was “a good conversation”.