Saturday, May 10, 2008

Fair and Free Market in a context of Global Good Governance

Global Strategic Enterprises, Inc for Peace and Prosperity-
Our Passion is a more integrated and globalized world that is attractive to all stakeholders (6.5 Billion shareholders)!

By Belai Habte-Jesus, MD, MPH

The Challenge of the Millennium: Making the Markets and Elections accountable to reliable information and public informed judgement is the challenge of the new integrated global community.

The Crisis in the West can wreck havoc across the world and the global community needs to have a transparent and accountable system of regulating the markets and election processes.

Free and Fair Market System for an integrated globalized world is needed. It is the duty of global citizens to promote all round transparency and accountability across public and private enterprises so that the health of the world economy and ecology is protected, always!

Purpose: Trans formative win-win agenda: making the markets and elections accountable!

To consider an Alternative Trans formative Agenda for May 2005/2008/2010 Series of Elections and the promotion of Free and Fair Markets in Ethiopia,Africa, Europe, Asia and the Americas as they consider future choices.

Premise: Good Governance based on fair elections; Free and accountable markets

The premise of this article is based on the principles of democratic representations for good governance that are exercised within the principle of frequent elections and mandates from global citizens. Fair markets that are accountable to the legal framework of international financial institutions. Election are about choosing policies, options and strategies that respond to the changing needs of the people, where ever they live on the planet.

The Choice: Transparent and Accountable Free and Fair Market System

The choice should be the evolutions of free and fair markets that are responsive to the changing needs, demands and expectations of the electorates or public and private stakeholders. The recent series of Housing Market failures in the US is reverberating across continents where established banks are bearing the brunt of the crisis and the US tax payers are bailing the two giant Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Public/Private institutions.

The Crisis: Unregulated Market held hostage by criminal speculators!

Voodoo economics is playing havoc to world treasures across the continents.
The unacceptable oil price hike is also making commodity markets too expensive where food price is picking up beyond the means of the majority of the world population. The normal Need, Demand and Supply economic model is being manipulated by criminal speculators who are bypassing the regulations and making billions of dollars without the respective productivity and creativity. This is gross robbery of the world treasure by few Wall Street and Mortgage brokers.

Process: Informed Choice via multimedia communications and transparent regulations!

As such for the public and regulators need live reliable and accurate financial information to make informed choices. Markets and elections are about choice, literally, need, demand and supply interaction. There must be a fair, equitable election and market system that is compliant to 3As and 3Es and FoC (Elections that are Affordable, Accessible, Available and Equitable, Efficient, Effective and conducted in an environment that supports freedom of Choice exercised within a transparent and accountable framework.

Global governance should reflect global realities.

Our world is highly integrated and globalized as what happens in one corner impacts the other within hours some times minutes and even seconds. Global Multi-Media Communications have made the world a truly global village and governance across the world should reflect this reality.

Creating the Paradigm of hope and opportunities

The old archaic construct of hiding behind geography is fast disappearing by the emerging global integrated cultural and economic convergence that is taking place at a fast pace. The recent series of global economic and ecological crisis is testimony to the emerging transformation of global relationships. The technological and social advances of our time demands a coordinated and integrated responses to our changing global crisis.

Transparent and accountable governance.

Global governance should be led by interactive, intelligence and multi-media based communication networks such that all citizens of the globe are protected and are made to benefit from the the emerging technological and cultural convergence. Representatives in government should be direct where the people have more access to decision making and are able to change their representatives based on competence, performance and results rather than the archaic out of date construct of group loyalty.

Lessons from US Democratic Presidential Primaries.

The current Democratic Presidential Primaries are an excellent example of how they left out millions of electorates in Michigan and Florida who could be their asset in the general elections due to chronism and old out of date party political rules.

The Experience of the Presidential Campaigns in the US clearly shows that Security, Ecology and Market crisis as evidence with clear global market crisis and US Atlantic Hurricane calamity, Middle East and African Terror and Famine Crisis, they tend to spend weeks and months talking about their biological identities of race, age, sex and very superficial issues of how they respond to questions making the presidency similar to the entertainment and late night commodity series.

The millennial times are serious times of challenges and opportunities. Yet, the global leadership does not seem to have the tools and attitudes to address the unique challenges. The public are not making their elected officials accountable for their action and inaction.

Considering the voices of all people!

It is likely they will loose the opportunity of having the best candidate and even loosing the general elections because their rules and protocols are out of date and do not respect the wishes of the people to matter in the electoral process. Imagine Super delegates or Politburo members making the choice instead of the electorates? Can reverse communism dictate terms in democratic USA under procedural chaos that denies the voice of two great states, Michigan and Florida. Can we expect the Democrats to win when they do not respect the votes of millions of citizens from these critical states? Time will tell!

Effective use of modern multi-media communications

Obama is utilizing modern multi-media communication channels and out smarting the old second world war era electoral system which the Clinton's so perfected to suit their purposes. The role of modern multimedia channels changing the face of democratic campaigns is key indication of what is possible in the future in other countries and regions of the world.

Can Super-delegates represent Politburo?

What is the difference between Super Delegate and Politburo members, why are some citizens more important than others. Is this democracy, cliptocracy, or dictatorship of the elites. Mind you the central determinant is money and money is what drives the cartels too. Super-delegates and Politburos are the same constructs exercised by different communities with more or less very similar outcomes. Individual choice and proportional representations demand one person, one vote and effective, transparent and accountable system of governance.

Greed and power can blind super delegates or super speculators!

Super Delegates, Politburo is dictatorship through the back door. What is interesting is that the same behavior that is abominable in one culture is portrayed as progressive democracy in another. I believe this cultural disconnect par excellence! The US Presidentical candidates that are protected by their wealth from the challenges of the common man need to feel the economic, security threats of survival

Our choices should be based on smart objectives that reflect the interests and choices of each community and stakeholders.

SMART Objective based agenda:

SMART Objective: Specific, Measurable, Appropriate, Realistic and Time Sensitive

To design an alternative trans formative paradigm for a prosperous Globe/Africa/Ethiopia based on Fair and Free Market,private ownership, transparency, accountability and good governance where there is a small, flexible and interactive government that respects the changing needs and demands of its citizens.

Why transformation?

The transformation strategy should be specific, measurable, appropriate, realistic to the changing parameters and time sensitive in terms of immediate, intermediate, short term and long term public and private expectations.

The demands of the Millennial Renaissance trans formative agenda.

Transformational Governance should be about change to meet the demands of the changing standards, market and security concerns of the citizens. To change the election paradigm towards real choice of direction for change. The current millennial renaissance transformational agenda demands a responsive transparent and accountable governance across the globe.

Can it happen in our time or are we going to pass on a more dangerous world because we missed the boat due to our incompetence and greed?

Approach: Making elections transparent and accountable

Setting the agenda for 2005/2008/2010 set of elections in different parts of the globe by focusing on free and fair market promoted investment, ownership to eradicate poverty via change in policy and electoral system. The experience of recent elections in the US, Europe, Asia and Africa has not been transparent. Some elections in Kenya have created untold amount of human and material resource loss. This needs to change.

The elections should be about choice. Change is the universal constant, and the constitutions, rules, regulations and protocols should change to reflect the realities on the ground.

Choosing change in direction.

The elections or government policies should be about choice in direction towards a free and fair market system that respects the interests of all stakeholders.

The current series of political arrangement be it fronts or coalitions in Africa, Asia, Democrats and Republicans in Americas, Labor/liberals and conservatives in Europe or revolutionary fronts in Latin America all in government and opposition are leftovers of the old confrontational paradigm of Marxist Leninist ideologies and their theological counter parts of liberation theologies.

The new paradigm post the cold war era needs to to develop an alternative vision from disaggregation the nations' resources into ethnic, racial and linguistic differentiations that lead into poverty and dictatorship.

The New Integrative Win-Win Partnerships Paradigm

That alternative paradigm is the development of an interactive integration and win-win partnerships of public and private stakeholders. This paradigm should be built on an environment of pre-emptive security, ecological and economic integration where the free markets are fair and accountable to all stakeholders.

The current series of housing, food, energy market collapse is a critical indication that we need to move towards evidence based fair market that is accessible, affordable, available, efficient, effective and equitable and most of all that respects the freedom of choice of all stakeholders.

Managing Housing, Oil and Food Cartels.

The current global crisis generated by greedy housing, oil and food cartels should be changed to a price system that attends to demand and supply within the context of global needs and productivity. Governments and the public at large should not be hostage to these cartels but act in a transparent and accountable way that monitor the price of commodities be it oil, food, entertainment and other products.

The vulnerable youth of bottom billions are not patient with such level of incompetence!

The highly charged vulnerable populations of the current world are not going to die like Ethiopians did in Wolo and Tigrai in the early 1970s literally dying waiting on the food distribution lines.

Today, these vulnerable groups, especially the youth are highly organized and ready to demand their share of the food, energy and housing market by any means possible including physical and emotional strategies that might threaten the security and safety of the general public.

We do not need to wait for the youth of the bottom one billion people to rise up with chaotic violent revolutions. We can take pre-emptive preventive actions of managing the market to reflect to the emerging needs of the vulnerable populations of the globe.

Managing the Market or being managed by the Cartels?

The Market cannot be left in the hands of few criminal cartels that can hold the world hostage. We cannot be talking about shortages when there is plenty and the Cartels are hoarding goods and services to demand more price than they are actually worth.

The current out of control oil and food prices and the unbelievable profit margins of these criminals cartels can not be sustained. If democracy can be bought by criminal cartels then what is the difference between the drug cartels and criminal gangs they are all the same in different suits and garbs.

Lessons from the Mortgage Meltdown:

The Mortgage meltdown in the United States that is reverberating across the world is nothing but another group of white collar financial mortgage cartels that are abusing the free market economy by insider dealings and out right criminal misrepresentations that allows them to change the interest rates to such level that home owners are left bankrupt. Again, this is a problem of Housing Mortgage Cartels that need to be managed by transparent and accountable governance.

The Advertising Paradigm: US Presidential elections for sale?

The US Presidential election is being turned into racial, gender and age discrimination cartel instead of dealing with the critical issues of oil, food and housing cartels that is making life a misery to the public. They spend millions with moronic advertisements that do not address the real issues but biological markers of genetic, age and gender differences on which the candidates have no control.

The candidates can control their policy options but not their age, sex and genetics. This is stupidity of the worst kind. The cartels want the public to miss the real point by distracting them with their biologic and animal instincts.

Managing our choice or choosing our future?

The choice is between fair and free market; between investment and poverty;,between security and insecurity. This paper advocates for fair and free market, private ownership, rule of law, transparency, accountability and good governance as an alternative to the current scenario of all of the same old Marxism, liberation theology, Terror and Poverty being recycled all over again. Change is what is needed and all competition should about offering change.

Expected outcome:

The expected outcome of this dialogue is to initiate vigorous discussion at intellectual, policy and political campaign towards rejecting poverty for ownership and investment; free cartel dealings for fair transparent market. Challenging the current corruption and poverty ridden ideology and policy that does not trust nor respect its own citizens.

Take back what are your land, property and citizenship fair market into your hands for prosperity and good governance. Change is needed from poverty, aid and hopelessness towards productivity, business and enterprises that attracts local and foreign investment.

Discussion towards understanding our options.

The left ideology of distributing poverty and the right wing ideology of corruption, hit, steal and run cartel approach has reached its zenith of incompetence and need to be challenged once for all by productivity and competency. The political elites and cadres of the past 30 years have focused on ethnic based geographical localization that reminds one of the Apartheid eras of homelands of genocide and poverty. The real issue is not reducing poverty but building prosperity!

Changing the paradigm of hopelessness!

Our option is to change the paradigm of hopelessness and disengagement to that of dialogue and pre-emptive governance that reflects the interest of the majority that is 6.5 billion people around the world. If few well organized cartels are allowed to usurp our economics and political and cultural lives, then we are left with narrow choices of insecurity, chaos and constant terror. It is critical to be strategic and pre-emptive in our deliberations and dialogue of chartering the future.

Empowerment of the people.

The current trend of dictatorship and outright terror of uncontrolled market and insecurity in housing, food and oil market is tearing apart the fabric of our society and has crippled the economy towards hopelessness, crime and terror under the guise of liberation fronts and loony liberal democracy of all sorts. We need patriotic good governance and not globalized terror via so called loony liberal democracies where every thing goes without transparency and accountability.

Changing fear with courage, despair with hope!

All resources continue to be in the hands of few people in authority who do not know how to use the resources themselves nor allow others to utilize it. Unfortunately, the current set of leadership of highly vulnerable bottom billion people are busy walking the old beaten tracks. We need to change our insecurity with intelligent and interactive courage, and despair with practical and interactive hope based on hard work and engagement of all civil societies.

Ownership of talent, resources and enterprises!

The leaders of the poorest developing countries are left with no option but to continue to beg for IMF, World Bank and Bilateral donations while impoverishing their own citizens. However, the new global win-win partnership demands that the public and private sector and general citizenry should be empowered with tools of education, knowledge economy, investment that includes ownership of land, property, assets and skills that can be transacted freely in a transparent legal framework that is fair to all. Market speculators and drug dealers are criminals that need to be made accountable.

Protecting, talent, resources and skills.

Once land and resources are restored to the public and transacted within the context of fair and fair markets; the poor will be in charge of enterprises that are productive and profitable to all participants. These enterprises that utilize the talents and resources of the majority need to be transacted with clear-cut legal process that are transparent and accountable to the interests of all stakeholders. Then, the citizens (not the criminal cartels) can put them forward as collateral's for investment and development purposes that will transform their ecologies, economies and social paradigm. This is the wave of the future.

Knowledge Economy is based on organic resources.

Government and Business should be separated. The current conflict of interest where a party owns or is owned by cartels that own the whole country and behaves, as the landlord and tenant at the same time, denying citizens from productivity or legal competition will be changed as the good governance will demand transparency and accountability at all levels.

The current global poverty is artificial

The current global poverty among plenty due to incompetent leadership and greedy political, oil, food and drug cartels will change as even the role of governance will be challenged and competent people will compete for every position in the respective countries. The current global poverty and vulnerability is artificial created by the greed and fear of minorities who o not see a global paradigm at peace with itself and promoting a common secure environment. This is a mindset and perspective that needs to change.

Promoting Green Knoldege Economy

The knowledge based economy can only survive on green and organic economy as the current market speculation driven economy is wiping out the assets of the global economy in seconds due to volatile global market forces. Can the market be tamed? Can it be free and fair at the same time? Yes, Global Green Knowledge Economy can change the future of the current market dominated by criminal cartel groups.


This paper looks at age-old transparent and accountable patriotism, enterprise, productivity based competitiveness under the rule of law as the only option for a vision of prosperous Ethiopia. The notion that the farmer will sell all the land and migrate to the cities is a myth created to blunder the wealth of the nation towards both material and spiritual poverty. Who is really handing over Badme and Ethiopian Red Sea Coast, the farmer or misguided communists?

Terror should be replaced by Green knowledge economy.

Considering the poorest nations of the Horn, one wonders, Why not govern regionally instead of fighting over the Desert scraps of Badme or Armacheho in Erobland and Bejamedir or Borenalands in the north, west and southern part of Ethiopia. Why not settle the economic and security challenges of Somalia instead of trying to access the hell on earth and perhaps in heaven too by promoting mayham and terrorizing cbildrena and seniors. Hungry people need food not bullets. Market forces like security and will shy away from terror zones and the foolish Somali leaders do not even know the basics of economcis 101: Need, Demand and Supply interact best in a secure environment.

The global climate change and regional terror network can only be defeated by green knowledge economy that has international legal enforcement of fair and free market instead of callous dumbing ground for old delapidated warfare armaments. The local leadership should spend meagre resources on green economy insted of out of date heaps of warfare armaments.

Artificial boundaries need to be liberated with fair economies

It is not the land that is the issue it is how we mange it. Allow the land to be developed for investment so that the local people have jobs and are able to participate in the fair and free market system. The current artificial boundaries need to be liberated with fair and free markets where jobs, and good can easily move from community to communtiy in a legal framework.

Putting boundaries as the central issue of divergence in a continent such as Africa who did not take part in the demarcation process in the first instance and now trying to implement out of date principle of border demarcations that were set up by colonial leaders without considering local interests need not be the focus of our development agenda in an integrated and globalized world,

Creating win-win collaborative partnerships!

The current global market and enterprise environment demands collaborative regional partnerships for competitiveness and win-win partnerships within the context of African Union cultural, economic, parliamentary and judicial integration. The African Union is the transformational agenda of Africans in the 21st century and the old colonial divide and rule boundaries should not be our present agenda.

Oil, Food, Drug and Gun Cartels should be made accountable.

The notion that the oil and food cartels can keep on putting up prices without consequences is fast disappearing. The people want to manage their economic, energy and food markets so that they are beneficiaries of the market forces.

The old communists and dictatorships are being replaced by the selfish market cartels, using the same old strategy of terrorizing the populations with exploding market prices. Free Market should be tempered with Fair market and every society should be able to define what is fair and free and not be dictated to by the Global Market Cartels.

The recent Sunami in Maynamar and Burma Military Dictatorship response is a clear example of how some governments can be out of touch with the needs of their own people!

The oil, food, drug and gun cartels that are disrupting the global cultural and economic convergence should be made accountable? How can the public match their growing economic power that buys the politicians and legal enforcement community?

Empowering the youth and our future.

The youth who are not educated cannot be productively engaged. The fountain of the future are kept prisoners in their own homes and made criminals by a shortsighted philosophy of poverty. One can only get rid of poverty by productivity and investment.

Land ownership and the ability to use it as collateral for business enterprises is the only solution of the current crisis. If we do not invest in the productive future of our youth, the rogue elements of society, be it drug, gun and energy gangs or theological goons will recruit them to our peril. Engaging our youth is in our best interest, otherwise others will engage them against our inherent interests

The May 2005/2008/2010 series of election should be about choice, poverty or prosperity, ownership or tenancy that leads to economic slavery. Ownership of property and the market is the only gateway to self determination and empowerment of the global stakeholders (6.5 Billion People).

Silence, or doing nothing in light of the current global crisis will lead to insecurity and un necessary social and economic terror that can be prevented by intelligent and proactive pre-emptive strategies of empowering the real stakeholders (6.5 Billion people).

Remember silence in the face of such overwhelming threat to our collective security and destiny is in effect collaboration with the criminals and terrorists and dictators of our time. The next generation will judge this callous and selfish generation mercilessly if they ever get the opportunity to do so. We can change this paradigm of hopelessness by acting individually and collectively now when it matters. The time is now to act

Belai FM Habte-Jesus, MD, MPH

First draft in 15 January 2005 and updated on 21 May 2008, Vamcpver, BC, Canada and 15 Spetember 2008 Washington, DC

Re: Managing the Market: Can it be fair and free at the same time? Price gouging and its consequences!

You may have to get used to paying more for your groceries for another two years or more.

Experts say an increase in global food consumption combined with increasing use of crops such as corn and soybeans for alternative fuel production are partly to blame.

Agricultural economists who've studied food price fluctuations cite historical trends that show run-ups in farm commodity prices typically happen in five-year cycles.

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Prices flare up in the first two to three years of the cycle and then start to moderate by the fourth or fifth year, said Chris Hurt, agricultural economist at Purdue University .

If 2007 was the first year of this latest cycle, Hurt said farm supply could start catching up to demand by 2010, helping to push down milk, bread, cereal and other grocery prices.

Until then, "Americans will be moving backward in their [food] lifestyle." By that he means that more families will trade down to cheaper food alternatives, or eat out less often, in order to adjust their budgets to both higher food and fuel costs.

Wal-Mart, the No. 1 discounter and supermarket chain, said Tuesday that spending patterns in its stores already support the trend. The retailer said shoppers are buying more white meat and less red meat, stocking up on larger package sizes and buying more boxed frozen meals as eating at home replaces going out.

"This is the first price boom we've seen since the 1970s," said Bill Knudson, professor of agricultural economics at Michigan State University, agreed. "There's an old industry saying that high prices cure high prices. My personal opinion is that food prices will remain high for another two or three more years."

The good news, however, is that "there's no grave concern" of a pending food shortage in the United States, Hurt said.

Why Is Food More Expensive Now?

Experts point to four main global trends for the rise in food prices.

First, growing incomes in developing countries such as China, India, Malaysia mean citizens in these countries are eating better and more frequently, thereby putting more demand on the global food supply.

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"People are consuming more quantity and higher-quality foods," said Hurt. "They are eating more meats, eggs, grains and [drinking] milk."

Second, adverse weather patterns over the past four years have harmed crop production in Australia, southern Europe, Ukraine and even parts of the United States.

American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) economist Jim Sartwelle said a prolonged drought in Australia - a major wheat and dairy producer - has led to big drops in world exports of wheat and milk.

Third, the United States is normally a big food surplus nation but, "with a weak dollar, there's been a run on our pantry of food supplies," Sartwelle said. "A lot of our excess production is going overseas and this is pushing up domestic prices."

Fourth, burgeoning demand in the European Union and the United States for ethanol and other biofuels has sparked a price surge in corn, soybeans, sugarcane and other commodities used to produce those alternative fuels.

It's not only consumers feeling the price pain, Sartwelle said.

He said that "even with higher retail prices, farmers and grocers get very little increase in their profit margin," because it's being offset by higher packaging costs, energy cost to produce and stock food and fuel to transport products.

Bill Ferriera, president of the Apricot Producers of California, also sees a bump-up in the costs of farming.

"Fertilizer costs have doubled from last year and farm labor availability is a big problem," he said. "Many farmers are choosing not to grow produce that is labor intensive."

Despite these food price hikes, Americans still spend only about 10% of their disposable income on food and beverage purchases per year, according to the Department of Agriculture.

That's below the 15% share of disposable income that Europeans spend on food and drinks, and the whopping 70% that citizens of Pakistan and Bangladesh budget for consumables, said Hurt.

So even with a 4.5% expected rise in overall food prices, Americans, per person, will only spend an extra $87 this year on groceries, according to the Economic Research Service of the Department of Agriculture.

But that's little consolation for consumers whose budgets are already stretched amid the the worst food price inflation in 17 years, according to government reports.

The latest nationwide quarterly survey from the AFBF, which tracks supermarket prices for 16 basic grocery items, showed the total cost of its basket of goods rose to $45.03 in the first quarter of 2008, up 8% from the prior quarter.

Products with the steepest retail price jumps were a 5-pound bag of flour, up 69 cents to $2.39; cheddar cheese, up 61 cents to $4.71 a pound; corn oil, up 58 cents to $3.01 a 32-ounce bottle; and dozen large eggs, up 55 cents to $2.16.

But higher prices aren't here to stay, Hurt said. He's confident that producers will allocate more land to production over the next two to three years. "I expect greater use of technology to increase crop yields and better use of genetics to create drought-tolerant crops," he said.

Knudson said the United States this year is expected to dedicate 2 million acres of land from its federal Conservation Reserve Program to farming in order to increase production during lean times.

"In Canada more land will also be committed to farming this year," he said. "All this should help to eventually increase food supplies through the [price] boom cycle."

Copyrighted, CNNMoney. All Rights Reserved.


Here is from the US Presidential Candidates: John and Obama on the Economy:

Obama, McCain blame economic woes on greed, policy
By Liz Sidoti, Associated Press Writer | September 15, 2008


Obama speaks during a rally in Grand Junction, Colo., Monday, Sept. 15, 2008. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
WASHINGTON - With chaos rocking financial markets, John McCain assailed "greed and corruption" on Wall Street and promised to clean it up, while Barack Obama blamed White House policies and said his opponent would only deliver more of the same.

The presidential candidates struggled on Monday to seize control of the issue voters say is most important — the economy — with Republicans and Democrats alike saying the man who succeeds may well win the election.

However, in a dizzying day of speeches and statements, neither White House hopeful offered any fresh ideas for turning things around. Instead each relied on the same vague, though vastly different, pitches he has sounded over the past few months for fixing what ails the country.

And they didn't emphasize that they are part of the Congress that has done little to head off the crisis. McCain is a four-term Arizona senator, Obama a first-termer from Illinois.

Bemoaning "the most serious financial crisis since the Great Depression," Democrat Obama faulted Republican McCain's domestic policy agenda as the same as President Bush's — "one that says we should just stick our heads in the sand and ignore economic problems until they spiral into crises."

McCain declared in a new TV ad, "Our economy is in crisis. Only proven reformers John McCain and Sarah Palin can fix it" — though he also told voters in Jacksonville, Fla., "The fundamentals of our economy are strong."

While presidents — and candidates of the party occupying the White House — often take credit for good economies and try to avoid blame for bad ones, financial crises nearly always have multiple causes.

Home loans became more affordable a few years ago when the Federal Reserve kept interest rates low. Politicians of all stripes encouraged home ownership. But lightly regulated financial outfits began slicing and dicing the resulting mortgages into securities and selling them to investors.

Eventually, it all began collapsing, prices dropped, people started losing their homes and Wall Street went into a spin.

This is the backdrop with some seven weeks left in the campaign, and both Obama and McCain are trying to find a message that resonates with anxious voters who are fretting about their retirement nest eggs, home mortgages and job security.

As different as their policies are, they were united in their message to voters: It's not your fault.

Courting working class voters who gave him grief in the Democratic primary, Obama sounded an I-feel-your-pain note.

Obama lamented Republican policies over eight years that he said "encouraged outsized bonuses to CEOs while ignoring middle-class Americans" and said: "Instead of prosperity trickling down, the pain has trickled up — from the struggles of hardworking Americans on Main Street to the largest firms of Wall Street."

McCain's words were sympathetic as well.

"America is in a crisis today," he said — then added: "The economic crisis is not the fault of the American people. Our workers are the most innovative, the hardest working, the best skilled, the most productive, the most competitive in the world. ... But they are being threatened today ... because of greed and corruption that some engaged in on Wall Street and we have got to fix it."

Some in the markets, he said, "have treated Wall Street like a casino."

The upheaval at Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., Merrill Lynch & Co., and American International Group Inc. — and the stunning reordering of the financial market that has following — gave the candidates an opening to press their economic ideas anew.

In line with historical positions of Democrats and Republicans, Obama generally supports stronger consumer protections, better regulatory oversight and more government intervention, while McCain broadly prefers a market system of less federal involvement and red tape.

Both advocate tax cuts, though to different degrees and different ends. Obama seeks to cut into inequality between rich and poor by raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans and give breaks to the middle class and lower-income people. McCain wants to spur the economy and create jobs by keeping tax rates low for higher-income taxpayers and slashing rates for corporations.

While they focused on the topic that voters say matters most, the two campaigns also continued to assail each other Monday on character issues. The Democratic vice presidential nominee, Joe Biden, said McCain was "launching a low blow a day." McCain's campaign, in turn, accused Obama of spouting "false talk about change" and hurling insults to cover up his record.

Yet, even that increasingly personal griping took a back seat as Obama and McCain maneuvered for an edge on the economy with stocks tumbling as investors reacted to the latest Wall Street turmoil.

Obama has led for months on the question of who would best handle the economy, but some polls show that his advantage has dwindled. He had a slight advantage over McCain on the economy — 47 percent to 42 percent — in an ABC News/Washington Post poll last week, the Democrat's edge cut in half since spring. However, CNN's latest poll showed Obama with a larger edge, 52 percent to 44 percent, with no movement from early this year.

McCain focused mostly on a need for regulatory reforms and applauded the federal government's refusal to bail out the latest cash-strapped institutions. It was a posture designed to bolster his free-market stance and strike a populist chord.

He promised: "The McCain-Palin administration will replace an outdated, patchwork quilt of regulatory oversight and bring transparency and accountability to Wall Street. We will have transparency and accountability and we will reform the regulatory bodies of government." He didn't say precisely how.

At a campaign appearance in Grand Junction, Colo., Obama chastised McCain by saying: "It's not that I think John McCain doesn't care what's going on in the lives of most Americans. I just think he doesn't know. He doesn't get what's happening between the mountains in Sedona where he lives and the corridors of power where he works."

As for government regulation, he said, "For years I have called for modernizing the rules of the road."

It's been nearly a decade since Congress and President Clinton reshaped the financial landscape. That 1999 legislation removed Depression-era barriers between commercial banks and investment firms and allowed the creation of financial behemoths where years later the risks of underwriting subprime mortgages were somewhat hidden.

Former Sen. Phil Gramm, R-Texas, until recently one of the McCain campaign's top economic advisers, was a chief writer of that law.

McCain voted for a Senate version of the bill but did not vote on the final package. Biden voted against the Senate legislation but for the final compromise that Clinton signed. Obama was not in Congress at the time.

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