Clinton on Economy: 'We Are In The Soup'

ABC News' Eloise Harper and Kate Snow report: Speaking to reporters in Washington, D.C., Monday, Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., expressed her frustration with the economy and the Bush administration.

“I would do anything to start getting this under control as I have been calling now for a year because we are seeing the consequences. You know, when I first called for a lot of these steps, I was ridiculed by the Bush administration and, frankly, my Democratic opponent. Now we are in the soup and we better get ourselves out of it before the consequences are drastic.”

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Clinton warned, “We are in a very dangerous period in the economy, we need vigilance and we need leadership and we’ve got to get it from this administration.”

But she and her campaign advisors offered few specific prescriptions for the economy, other than a plan to stem the subprime mortgage crisis, which she offered months ago.

Clinton spoke to the Secretary of the Treasury this morning.  On a conference call later, Clinton campaign advisors said she made that call as a senator representing New York, with many constituents who work on Wall Street.

In her remarks, Clinton said she would not “second guess the Fed” and suggested that she did not disagree with the actions taken on Sunday.  But when pressed on whether the senator favored further action by the Federal Reserve, her aides were not specific.

“She’s not going to second guess the actions of the Fed,” said policy director Neera Tanden.  “These are serious issues that could have serious impact.”

“We're not here criticizing President Bush's actions today or, really, the Fed’s actions, because obviously, the Fed led the way -- as we read the news reports -- led the way in addressing the crisis,” said Tanden.

“Obviously, Sen. Clinton is relieved that the crisis did not -- there does not appear to be a crisis on the market today.  But what she is saying is that we would not be here today if President Bush had listened to her a year ago and had taken decisive action.”

They, instead, pointed repeatedly to Clinton’s proposals on the subprime mortgage crisis, proposals that date back one year.

“For some time Sen. Clinton has been expressing serious concerns about the mortgage crisis,” said communications director Howard Wolfson.

“It was almost exactly a year ago Hillary outlined her proposals on the subprime problem.  She would’ve addressed it in real time.  She saw it before it became a crisis,” said Tanden.

Asked if it was “time to start thinking bigger” and if there were other specific proposals Clinton would put forward now, given the extent of the problems facing financial markets, campaign aides repeatedly returned to the subprime plan.

“We believe that adoptment -- enactment of her plan now would help alleviate the burden and anxiety for homeowners and bring some stability to the housing market. I don't foreclose the possibility that we may be announcing additional measures and steps, and when we have something to announce, we'll definitely let folks know,” said Wolfson.

Clinton’s aides also argued against the notion that there would be a “moral hazard” to helping homeowners who’ve defaulted on subprime mortgages.

“I don’t know what John McCain’s position is,” said Wolfson.  “If he wants to argue that it’s a bailout to help homeowners at risk, he’s welcome to ... We believe there is a responsibility to act.”

Clinton said earlier Monday that if she were president, she would convene Congress to find a solution.

“I would call the leadership of Congress and say, 'you may be on a two-week vacation –- I want everybody here, we are going to sit here and figure out what we are going to get out of this Congress, ready to be passed as soon as you come back –- this cannot wait.' So, I feel so strongly, as you might guess, this is a perfect opportunity for the kind of presidential leadership that we desperately need that we are not getting.”

Reading from a statement, Clinton said she would “continue to monitor the situation closely throughout the day and will seek advice and council from a broad range of economic advisors.

"As a senator from New York, I am keenly focused on the impact of these market developments on the lives and livelihoods of thousands of New Yorkers and on the New York city economy as a whole.

"I am also reminded every day as I meet the families and listen to their stories, that the effect of functioning of our financial markets isn’t just about Wall Street -- it is about Main Street. It’s about the families I meet who are struggling to fend off foreclosures and stay in their home. It's about construction workers who used to build houses and are now out of work. It’s about the college student who has good credit but is struggling to get a loan.

"What is happening on Wall Street may well affect the lives and fortunes of tens and millions of Americans who work hard every day. They have done nothing wrong but they will be impacted at these times of stress and uncertainty.

"We need to be vigilant to do everything in our power to maintain confidence in our financial system. I feel very strongly that every way we’ve got to have more urgency to continue the action that was stated yesterday.

"In my conversations earlier this morning, I raised my concern about the continuing numbers of foreclosures and my very strong belief that in the absences of addressing that aspect of the subprime mortgage credit crisis, we will not be able to make the progress we have to make, so I will follow this closely, and as I said, I am particularly concerned about the many employees of Bear Sterns and their families and the affect on the economy.”

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