Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton addressed America’s troubled economy and called for “bold action” to halt the US housing crisis today.
The former first lady was speaking in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as she tried to woo the state’s voters ahead of its key primary election on April 22.
Mrs Clinton said the same kind of “unprecedented action” seen last week to head off a crisis at Wall Street banks should be used “to help families avoid foreclosure and keep communities across this country from spiralling into recession”.
The 60-year-old New York senator unveiled a four-point plan which she said would help families avoid foreclosures and unfreeze mortgage markets.
Her plan includes action to help at-risk homeowners restructure their mortgages, the creation of a working group to investigate ways to restructure at-risk mortgages, an easing in legal liability for mortgage servicers to help unfreeze the mortgage market, and an additional $30bn (€19.5bn) in stimulus to help states fight foreclosures in their communities.
“Over the past week, we’ve seen unprecedented action to maintain confidence in our credit markets and head off a crisis for Wall Street Banks,” Mrs Clinton said.
“It’s now time for equally aggressive action to help families avoid foreclosure and keep communities across this country from spiralling into recession.
“The solution I’ve proposed is a sensible way for everyone – lenders, investors, mortgage companies and borrowers – to share responsibility, keep families in their homes, and stabilise our communities and our economy.”
She said America was experiencing a “crisis of confidence”.
“It started out as a sub-prime mortgage crisis. It’s now become a national credit crisis, rippling out from banks and boardrooms to businesses and living rooms across America,” she said.
Mrs Clinton said the “unprecedented measures” taken by the Federal Reserve, the US central bank, “to rescue Wall Street” and the US investment bank Bear Stearns last week had not been seen “since the Great Depression”.
She said these were not “red flags or warning signs” but “indisputable indicators that our economy is in trouble”.
As Mrs Clinton continued her drive to win Pennsylvania and the majority of its 158 delegates in a bid to narrow Mr Obama’s lead, the young Illinois senator was taking three days away from the campaign trail after securing the support of former presidential candidate Bill Richardson.
The endorsement of the New Mexico governor, a high-profile superdelegate and a former member of Bill Clinton’s Cabinet, was seen as a major boost for the Obama campaign.
Mr Richardson said Mr Obama offered a “once-in-a lifetime opportunity for our nation” and said he was “a once-in-a-lifetime leader”.
Mr Richardson praised the Clintons, but added: “It is time for the Democrats to stop fighting among ourselves and prepare for the tough fight against John McCain.”
Clinton adviser James Carville compared Mr Richardson to Judas, but yesterday the governor said he was “not going to get in the gutter like that”.
“And you know, that’s typical of many of the people around Senator Clinton,” he said. “They think they have a sense of entitlement to the presidency.”
The row followed on from criticism of the Obama campaign for allowing retired General Merrill “Tony” McPeak, a co-chairman of Mr Obama’s campaign, to compare comments made by former president Bill Clinton to the actions of Joseph McCarthy, the 1950s communist-hunting senator.
Last Friday, referring to a potential general election battle between Republican John McCain and his wife, Mr Clinton said: “I think it would be a great thing if we had an election year where you had two people who loved this country and were devoted to the interest of this country.
“And people could actually ask themselves who is right on these issues, instead of all this other stuff that always seems to intrude itself on our politics.”
The general took offence and accused Mr Clinton of trying to question Mr Obama’s patriotism, comparing his comments to McCarthyism.
Mr Richardson also criticised the general’s comments, and said: “I don’t believe President Clinton was implying that.
“But the point here… is that the campaign has gotten too negative – too many personal attacks, too much negativity that is not resounding with the public.”
The race for the Democratic nomination is likely to come down to so-called superdelegates, party officials and other leaders whose votes are not tied to the primary season results, as neither Mr Obama nor Mrs Clinton are likely to reach the magic number of 2,024 needed with pledged delegates alone.
Mr Obama has 1,620 delegates, compared with Mrs Clinton’s 1,499, according to the latest Associated Press figures.
After Pennsylvania, where Mrs Clinton is seen as favourite, the remaining nine contests in Indiana, North Carolina, West Virginia, Kentucky, Oregon, Puerto Rico, Montana, South Dakota and Guam only offer a total of 408 delegates between them.