Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) went to the NASDAQ MarketSite in Times Square this morning to call for greater openness and transparency on Wall Street – an approach that echoed his choice of Detroit for a speech in May taking on auto companies.
Pointing to the bundles of subprime mortgages that received rosy ratings and later experienced a high rate of defaults, the Democratic presidential candidate called for “an immediate investigation of the relationship and business practices of rating agencies and their clients.”
“The failure of government to exercise adequate oversight over the rating agencies will cost investors and public pension funds billions of dollars – losses we have not yet fully recognized,” he said in prepared remarks. “If the public comes to view this like the accounting analyses of Enron, the markets will be ravished by a crisis in confidence. … We must take steps to avoid that at all costs.”
Obama was scheduled to speak at the corner of 43rd Street and Broadway to a networking group called the Executive Council, which includes senior executives, board members and capital markets professionals.
“I know some may say it’s anathema to come to Wall Street and call for shared sacrifice so that all Americans can benefit from this new economy of ours,” his remarks said. “But I believe that all of you are as open and willing to listen as anyone else in America. I believe you care about this country and the future we are leaving to the next generation. I believe your work to be a part of building a stronger, more vibrant, and more just America. I think the problem is that no one has asked you to play a part in the project of American renewal.”
Obama’s text said he’ll be laying out a three-part economic agenda in coming weeks:
—On Tuesday morning in Washington, he’ll talk about tax fairness, and release what he calls “a plan to modernize and simplify our tax code so that it provides greater opportunity and more relief to more Americans.”
“For far too long, our tax code has been so riddled with special-interest loopholes and giveaways that it’s shifted the tax burden to small businesses and middle-class Americans,” he said.
—Next will come steps that he says will “ensure America’s competitive edge in the 21st century.”
“This starts with providing every American with a world-class education from cradle to adulthood,” he said. “China is already graduating four times as many engineers as we do and that our share of twenty-four-year-olds with college degrees now falls somewhere between Bulgaria and Costa Rica.”
—Finally, he will offer what he calls a plan “to modernize and strengthen America’s safety net for working Americans.”
“Like all of you, I believe in free trade,” he said. “But we have to acknowledge that for millions of Americans, its burdens outweigh its benefits. … I believe we all have a stake in embracing policies that will provide them with a sense of security. That means health insurance and a pension that they can always count on. That means skills and training that can actually help people find a job. And that means wages that actually make work pay.”