News stories continually remind us of our faltering economy, crumbling housing market, and deteriorating job security. At the same time, I know many individuals are also concerned about their own pocket books as the value of their homes decline, their retirement savings shrink and energy costs skyrocket. As I sit here today reviewing the President’s plan, listening to the debate of my colleagues in Congress and the messages from my constituents, many of you have come to the same conclusion as I have. Congress cannot simply give the Administration a blank check to bail out Wall Street. As Congress works in a bipartisan manner to get our country back on track, the effect on the average American taxpayer must be the focus of our efforts.
As you may know, the White House recently released its unprecedented plan to bail out banks and financial institutions. The Secretary of the Treasury, Henry Paulson, says that he may need up to $700 billion to purchase the bad debt on the balance sheets of some of the country’s largest banks and financial institutions. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and Secretary Paulson have told Congress that this purchase would help increase liquidity in the financial markets, allowing banks to begin lending more money. They believe that these purchases will increase confidence among investors and help grow the economy.
While Congress must intervene to stabilize the economy and Wall Street, I believe that any plan must also help families who are struggling on Main Street. I have asked myself how we can expect the American taxpayer to foot a $700 billion bailout to banks, when they are already struggling to make mortgage payments, buy gas and heat their homes.
A crisis of this magnitude requires a significant response but if the American taxpayer is asked to fund the bailout, then they must be protected from undue exposure, and they must be the first to reap the benefits when the market is made right again. To make this promise to taxpayers, we must ensure that someone is minding the market. Congress must include immediate and continuing overnight authority to ensure that the recovery plan is properly implemented and positively impacting the market.
As the advocate for Main Street, Congress must also ensure that those executives who were responsible for this crisis do not personally gain from the bailout. The original Administration plan did nothing to prevent executives from gaining exorbitant exit pay packages. For those companies that participate in the bailout plan, Congress must limit this executive compensation. We cannot allow a privileged few to benefit, while hardworking American taxpayers carry the burden. I am happy that the President finally acknowledged this point.
Wall Street is in crisis and that impacts all of us, but our reaction to the crisis must be balanced and beneficial to those who bare the burden. Congress must ensure that the average taxpayer and homeowner ultimately gain from our actions. Our role in this crisis does not end with the passage of a recovery package. I will continue to focus on protecting hard-working families in New Jersey.