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Inauguration Day, 2009
My Thoughts on Financial Recovery
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Six weeks after the first bailout vote and two weeks after the election, Congress will return for a probable lame duck session to address our growing economic crisis. I have received a great deal of reaction and some press criticism for my vote against the original bailout package. What does the terrain look like now?

Economic conditions continue to deteriorate, and American job loses are on the rise. The number of Americans looking for work climbed to 10.1 million in October—the highest number in 25 years—and more than one in five of those looking for work have been jobless for six months or more. It appears that in the two months since the passage of the bailout, my concerns, and frankly those of many of the Oregonians that I consulted with, have been justified. The bailout has not stopped the stock market freefall. Although no one should confuse the S&P 500 with the economy, it is a powerful indicator of consumer confidence; it fell more than 460 points even as the House voted on the final bill. That downward trend has continued uninterrupted as more bad news about the economy emerges. 

I return to Washington with the same fundamental objectives as before. My first priority is to do everything possible to stabilize the condition of homeowners around the country. This is not just about the 7 million plus Americans that are in danger of losing their homes to foreclosure—it’s about the millions of Americans who are watching home values fall, increasing the threats to their neighborhoods and communities. Mortgage servicers need to be able to help keep people in their homes, and the rules governing bankruptcy should be modified to ultimately give homeowners the same protection for their residence as the wealthy enjoy for their fourth vacation home or any business has for its property. This is not only a matter of fundamental fairness; the financial stability of our nation and our communities depends on reasonable treatment for both homeowners and mortgage holders.

I want to make sure that the taxpayer is given a better deal. We need, at every opportunity, to drive a harder bargain to make sure that their money is not wasted, but buys something of value in return, whether it is a more fuel-efficient car or a profitable share in a recovering economy. As money is made, taxpayers should be the first in line.

Further, although rigid rules are dangerous in a time of unprecedented financial uncertainty, we should have a firmer set of guidelines and clear expectations for what we expect. Is it worse to have a large company work out its problems through bankruptcy, or to throw taxpayer money at an unsustainable business model that may simply postpone the inevitable at great cost? How far are we prepared to extend money to troubled sectors of the economy? These questions deserve more thought and public discussion.

Last, but by no means least: What are we going to do to prevent debacles like this in the future? Part of the solution is to have vigorous oversight instead of the self-regulation that has been the mantra of so many in Washington for so long. I will be proposing changes to guarantee that tax exempt investments are transparent and protected, instead of hidden in anonymous black financial holes and subject to enormous and risky bets. It's time for a financial consumer protection agency to stop the rampant abuses that have been pursued by some in the private sector. Protection, bankruptcy equity, fundamental consumer protection, reasonable financial industry oversight, and tax reform will be an important part of the equation, if we are to ensure that we don't recreate these catastrophic circumstances anytime soon.



My Priorities for Oregon and the Nation

Rebuilding and Renewing America

We are watching America’s highways and bridges crumble, levees breach, and antiquated water systems endanger our environment and our communities' health. The power grid is increasingly outdated and the promise of broadband internet has yet to be delivered to all Americans. I believe America needs a new plan to maintain and invest in the infrastructure that will keep our economy competitive, our environment clean, and our families safe, healthy and economically secure. Read more.

My Iraq Legislation

I have opposed the Iraq war from the beginning, but simply opposing the war is not enough. That is why I introduced the New Direction for Iraq Act, which requires the redeployment of U.S. troops from Iraq, a new diplomatic offensive to stabilize Iraq, aggressive efforts at oversight and accountability, and a new approach towards reconstruction. Read more.

Energy and the Environment

Global warming is an escalating crisis for this generation and the ones to follow. As a longtime advocate for reducing our carbon emissions and protecting the planet, I was honored to be named to the first ever Global Warming Committee. Read more about the committee and my work to stop global warming here.  Read more.

Health Care

Health care in United States is reaching a crisis point with 500,000 Oregonians lacking health insurance and over 47 million Americans nationwide struggling to access health coverage.  Employer-based health insurance is increasingly unsustainable and we need to move toward a new health care delivery system, which is why I have co-sponsored the Healthy Americans Act.  Read more.

Tax Fairness

Under the Bush administration, tax giveaways for the wealthy and unnecessary subsidies have badly tilted the playing field against average taxpayers. As a member of the Ways and Means Committee, which is responsible for taxes and revenue, I am protecting hardworking families from unfair taxes like the AMT and eliminating corporate tax loopholes and giveaways.
Read more.