In conclusion, it is time to put the various candidates to the test – a real test of urgently needed policy, not idle questions of style or atmospherics or hairstyles. Let the various candidates respond to my proposal for a uniform federal ban on foreclosures, to last for five years or for the duration of the crisis, whichever is longer, and to begin as soon as the bill can be passed and the inevitable Bush veto overridden by the necessary two thirds vote.
I say to Senator Clinton: your television ad stated that you support a freeze on foreclosures. I am flattered that you have chosen to speak to the issue which I was the first political candidate to stress, starting in my speeches back in the autumn of last year. What your ad did not state was that your freeze on foreclosure and eviction only lasts for a wretched, miserable ninety days. That is a cruel joke, a bogus sham, and suggests the cruelty of a wealthy elitist politician who triangulates between Robert Rubin and Rupert Murdoch. If Mrs. Clinton is serious, she must amend her proposal to provide for a full five years of foreclosure protection, and even more open-ended protection if the duration of the present world economic breakdown crisis should make that necessary. No need to trim and triangulate on this one, Senator Clinton – we need the full five years as a minimum. And don’t let Mark Penn tell you otherwise.
Senator Obama has campaigned on the slogan of the politics of hope. I am very much afraid that this will prove to be just another empty and demagogic slogan, like the politics of joy – that was Hubert Humphrey in 1968, and it was neither hopeful nor joyful. If Senator Obama wants to show that the politics of hope means something real, let him support this call for a uniform, orderly federal ban on foreclosures. What hope can there be in a family that is facing foreclosure and eviction, followed by homelessness in many cases? Senator Obama also says that he can solve problems not by fighting, but by bipartisan cooperation and reconciliation. Let him use this clear moral issue, this absolutely indispensable measure for the most threatened parts of our society, to show that his much-touted bipartisanship can actually work. I suspect that he will find the actual implementation much more difficult than his platitudes suggest – it will require a political fight, with ingredients of mass mobilization and mass struggle of which he seems to have no idea. Make a freeze on foreclosures into a case study for your much-touted conciliatory and bipartisan method, Senator Obama, and let’s see whether it works – right now.
I have noted that Senator Edwards talks about corporate greed and the need to bridge the gap between the Two Americas. Edwards has labor support and is running as an economic populist. At the same time, there have been questions about his ties to various predatory hedge funds. Let him show us where he stands by embracing the cause of banning foreclosures, by demonstrating that he values working families more than toxic, bankrupt Wall Street financial instruments and derivatives. He could find no better way to energize his campaign.
Governor Huckabee has addressed the difference between Walmart Republicans and Wall Street Republicans, between the Sam’s Club and the country club wings of the GOP. At the heart of economic insecurity is the looming threat of foreclosures, which terrorizes millions of families. Christ called upon his followers to – among other things --feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and house the homeless – the last point of the social gospel would seem to mandate support for an immediate freeze on foreclosures that would be an imperative of faith for a man like Governor Huckabee. Today is Epiphany, the day when we get to see the face of what is divine. What better day to stand up for those who are about to be evicted and homeless, giving them their homes back? The alternative is to worship Mammon, the god of riches. I hope Governor Huckabee will embrace our cause.
Congressman Paul has advocated a return to the norms of constitutional government. Well, when I look in my copy of the Constitution, I find nothing at all about von Hayek and the Austrian economists, nor anything about Milton Friedman and the infamous Chicago boys, the so-called free market gurus whom Dr. Paul seems to hold in such high esteem. But my copy of the constitution does have a preamble that specifies that one of the leading purposes of government is to promote the General Welfare. To me this means that we cannot allow millions of people to be thrown out of work, or millions of people to be evicted from their homes and thrown out on the street, or be denied medical care because the hospital has gone bankrupt and shut down. This cannot be allowed, and robust and timely government intervention must prevent it. We need an expansive reading of the general welfare clause, in the tradition of Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal, brought up to date to the economic needs of today. We do not need another Herbert Hoover giving us an endless series of rationales from the free market school about why government can’t do anything to help people. Join us, Congressman Paul.
Nor do I forget Senator McCain, who loves to portray himself as a fearless maverick, independent of the usual Republican lockstep, who deals only in straight talk. But is McCain independent of Wall Street? How about some straight talk on foreclosures, Senator? That would mean an immediate five-year federal ban. We will be looking for your answer.
So I call on all presidential candidates of all parties, and all candidates for federal office in all states, to join in the campaign to stop foreclosures. Because the urgency of action is so great, I also call on all incumbents to get busy right now and pass this law over Bush’s inevitable veto.
The results of the Iowa caucuses of both parties show that this is the hour of economic populism. If we add the outspoken economic populists Edwards and Huckabee with the more muted and tentative tendencies of Obama in this direction, we get 60% of the votes – a clear majority. The great need now is to make this economic populism concrete and effective as we work towards a comprehensive economic recovery program to restore jobs and homes and production and living standards – sinews of hope. A grave financial crisis, so grave as to represent a crisis of civilization itself, is now upon us. Join us in the great enterprise of organizing a true economic recovery and banishing the Great Fear from the world.