Bailout faces opposition from both left, right

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While business groups used expensive lobbyists Wednesday to try to persuade Congress to approve a $700 billion bailout of the financial market, grass-roots advocacy groups stuck to marches, petitions and public statements.

More than 50 trade groups circulated a letter to lawmakers asking them to “prevent a meltdown” of credit markets that could make it nearly impossible for businesses and home buyers to get loans.

However, business groups faced opposition from both liberals and conservatives.

The conservatives said a government bailout was a subsidy for business, similar to slipshod economic policies of socialism. Liberals said a bailout rewards highly paid financial executives who do not need the money nearly as much as homeowners worrying about foreclosure.

Code Pink, a liberal anti-war group, staged protests on Capitol Hill and in New York City and Los Angeles, saying the Wall Street bailout unfairly rewards financial executives who created the economic crisis. Protesters enteredthe Senate offices of presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama chanting slogans such as “Bailout over my dead body.”

Medea Benjamin, co-founder of Code Pink, said, “We think there should be a bottom-up solution that helps the middle-class and working-class people. This is a top-down one that helps the very people who got us into this crisis. This is not what democracy is supposed to be like.”

None of the groups expressing dissatisfaction with the bailout bill doubted that the U.S. was facing an economic crisis. Their primary concern was ensuring that lawmakers would not overlook risks of more foreclosures and higher unemployment.

“We call on Congress to pass an economic stimulus package this week for Main Street, together with bankruptcy reform to help homeowners,” the AFL-CIO labor federation said. “Without a stimulus and bankruptcy reform, the bailout looks like what it is - help for Wall Street - when what America needs is help for Main Street.”

Jobs with Justice, an advocacy group for community and labor organizations, recommended that the bailout include more regulation of financial firms, reforms of bankruptcy laws to protect homeowners and economic-stimulus provisions to create more jobs.

“The speculators and the system that brought us to this mess needs to pay for the cleanup,” said Francis Tobin, a Jobs with Justice field organizer.

The Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America (NACA), a community advocacy organization, recommends that Congress put a moratorium on home foreclosures, then restructure them to make them more affordable for homeowners.

“For our tax dollars to meet the intended purposes, we will purchase the most problematic loan portfolios from the most irresponsible lenders,” a NACA statement said.

Some advocacy groups said that if Congress can provide $700 billion for a financial firm bailout, it should help other groups that provide important services to the same extent.

“Why can’t we have similar intervention with the near collapse of the health care industry in this country?” said Charles Idelson, a spokesman for the California Nurses Association, a labor group.

Opinion polls showed the revised bill considered by the Senate on Wednesday was more popular than the original measure rejected by the House on Monday.

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