McCain Blames Recession On Wall St.

Candidate Says Deregulation Spurred Economic Growth, Didn't Cause Collapse

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Last year, few expected John McCain to be the Republican nominee - he was a lonely advocate of the surge in Iraq, and many Republicans didn't like a man so often at odds with his own party. This former Navy aviator and former POW fought his way to the nomination only to find himself, now, in the thick of the crisis on Wall Street.

Scott Pelley: If you were President of the United States tonight and you were going to make an address to the nation regarding this economic emergency, what would you say?

John McCain: I would tell the American people that we're in tough times. This certainly isn't a Great Depression, don't get me wrong - lay out the problem and the cause of the problem they're badly frightened right now. And we've gotta get their trust and confidence back.

Pelley: Should they be badly frightened?

McCain: I think they should be deeply concerned about the fact that innocent Americans that don't work on Wall Street and don't work in Washington are the victims of the greed, the excess, and, yes, in some cases, corruption. There's a social contract that Adam Smith talked about between capitalism and the people. That contract has been broken. It's been broken by greed and access, aided and abetted by a government in Washington that's dominated by special interests and corruption.

Pelley: Are we in a recession?

McCain: Sure. Technically I don't know. Unemployment is up. Wages are down. Home foreclosures are incredibly high. Those people, they don't care whether technically we're in a recession or not. The fact is they're hurtin'. And they are hurting very, very badly.

Pelley: In 1999 you were one of the senators who helped pass deregulation of Wall Street. Do you regret that now?

McCain: No, I think the deregulation was probably helpful to the growth of our economy.

McCain has been an advocate of deregulation most of his career, but Thursday he endorsed the biggest bailout in history - a plan for the government to take on the bad debts of financial institutions.

"We're gonna take over these bad loans. We're gonna take over these bad - these bonds and we're gonna keep you alive. And we're gonna have the taxpayer help you out. But when the time comes and the economy recovers then anything that's gained back is gonna go to the taxpayers first. I'm not saying this isn't gonna be messy. And I'm not saying it isn't gonna be expensive. But we have to stop the bleeding," the senator said.

Pelley: But why would you let the Wall Street executives…

McCain: I'm not.

Pelley: …sail away on their yachts and leave this on the American taxpayer?

McCain: Well, it's not the greedy Wall Street people that I worry about, although I am, like most Americans, frankly, enraged. It's basically a Ponzi scheme, as you know, that sooner or later was gonna collapse. And I'd like to get that money back from them. But we've gotta fix the average citizen who's the innocent bystander that is in danger of losing their pensions, their 401(k)'s, their IRAs. Their very life savings are at risk here.

Pelley: You have called for the firing of the head of the Securities and Exchange Commission, the federal government organization that oversees the markets.

McCain: Yes. You know, and by the way, that technically he can't be, quote, fired. But I'll tell you, when I'm president, if I want somebody to resign, they resign.

Pelley: I'm curious. If you wanna fire Chris Cox, the chairman of the SEC, who would you replace him with?

McCain: This may sound a little unusual, but I've admired Andrew Cuomo. I think he is somebody who could restore some credibility, lend some bipartisanship to this effort.

Pelley: He's a Democrat.

McCain: Oh, yes.

Pelley: He served in the cabinet of President Clinton.

McCain: Yes. And he did a good job. And he has respect. And he has prestige.