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Paul Kiesel
Paul Kiesel
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Biden Elucidates McCain's Regulatory History

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Up until recent weeks, John McCain did not have a history of supporting regulatory oversight. McCain’s camp has vigorously denied or has tried to amend statements that prove otherwise, especially since the federal government’s rescue of AIG and President Bush’s proposed bailout last week. The McCain camp has tried saying that members of the media and the Obama-Biden campaign have been distorting the truth. But who’s really been distorting the truth in recent weeks?

Senator Joe Biden has said that Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama and he would “increase regulatory oversight of the very people John [McCain] has refused to regulate. Biden said this as recent as last Tuesday, September 16, on CNN’s “American Morning.” Both Senators Barack Obama and

McCain, on the other hand, has consistently described himself as an opponent of most government regulation and has comprised a staff of economic advisers who are in lockstep with him and President Bush on economic policy. For instance, in early 1995, after Republicans had taken control of Congress, McCain proposed an across-the board moratorium on all federal regulations, but that subsequently failed in Congress. He was quoted as saying that excessive regulations were “destroying the American family, the American dream” and voters “want these regulations stopped.” The moratorium measure was unsuccessful.

McCain often takes his lead on financial issues from two outspoken advocates of free market approaches, former Senator Phil Gramm and Alan Greenspan, the former Federal Reserve chairman. Phil Gramm was one of the more influential congressmen to pass deregulation bills in the late 90s and 2000 (i.e. Gramm-Leach-Bliley, Commodity Futures Modernization Act). Phil Gramm also said in July 2008 that the American economy was fine, healthy, and that we are a “nation of whiners” in a “mental recession.” In order to distance himself from those comments, McCain would relieve Gramm of his duties as an economic adviser to his presidential campaign a couple weeks later.

In March 2008 McCain said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, as the mortgage crisis was worsening, “I’m always for less regulation. But I am aware of the view that there is a need for government oversight. I think we found this in the subprime lending crisis — that there are people that [cheated] the system and if not outright broke the law, they certainly engaged in unethical conduct which made this problem worse. So I do believe there is a role for oversight.”

And as the situation on Wall Street has grown more severe, as there is now a proposed $700,000,000,000 bailout on the table by the Bush Administration, McCain has gradually added increasing regulation of the financial sector to his “reform projects,” but he has not provided any specifics on what that reform would look like.

Therefore, Biden’s statements on McCain’s track record as a “deregulator” prove to be accurate, even though McCain’s position has rapidly changed over the course of his campaign and even more so in recent weeks.