1:00 p.m. In the fifth of a series of candidate forums sponsored by the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance at the University of Minnesota's Humphrey Institute, DFL U.S. Senate candidate Al Franken is giving a speech entitled, "An Economy That Works for the Middle Class."
1:05 p.m.Humphrey Institute Dean Atwood gives introductory remarks harkening back an event several years ago in Washington, D.C. when Franken imitated the late Senator Paul Simon (D-IL) at an event for Simon (reviving his work on SNL -- "Remember the bow tie.").
1:10 p.m.Franken says he is excited to talk about a single issue in depth at the Institute today and "wonk out." Franken begins by criticizing the financial bailout bill that Congress passed a few weeks ago, and states he would not have voted for it: "too many golden parachutes." He says it was a funded on the backs of taxpayers who did no wrong as a sacrificial offering to help those who committed fiscal mismanagement. "It was a bad bill," that was "full of ridiculous pork."
1:13 p.m.Franken believes most of all it was a bad bill because it did nothing to fix the problems that caused the financial crisis to begin with. Franken says Wall Street is more concerned about their next quarter than the next quarter century.
1:18 p.m.Franken scoffs that it took the bankruptcy of the nation's largest banks for the Bush administration to realize that voluntary regulation does not work.
1:20 p.m.Franken says we need to restore real oversight over Wall Street, and restore home equity for the middle class - equity that is disappearing every day. Franken states he wants a 120 moritorium on home foreclosures (though not for those who misled their lenders or speculated wildly). Franken says home foreclosures are largely falling into six categories: due to health care costs, job loss, divorce, a death in the family, being a victim of unscrupulous predatory lenders, and people who owe more on their houses than it is worth and are choosing not to pay.
1:26 p.m.Franken says to rebuild the middle class Washington needs to stop all the giveaways to special interests. Franken would start with middle class tax cuts, and stop giving 'tax cuts to millionaires.' He also proposes expanded the child tax credit. He also proposes a $5,000 tax credit for higher education.
1:30 p.m.Franken says Iraq should use its budget surplus to pay for its own infrastructure, and have the U.S. should take the $5 billion we are spending there on our own infrastructure needs, which will also help fund new American jobs.
1:35 p.m.Franken's long term solution to our economic woes lies in energy policy. He says we need an "Apollo program" to identify new energy technologies and invest in the ones we already know work. Franken adds, "we are not at a high point in our history right now." However, Franken says, "we can beat this crisis."
1:40 p.m.With regards to government deficit spending, Franken believes "deficits do matter," but Franken does not want a budget freeze, as that would freeze the priorities of Bush's budget. Franken wants to cut tax breaks and subsidies to oil and pharmaceutical companies.
1:45 p.m.When asked if he supported a pay-as-you-go approach to Congressional budgetmaking, Franken says pay-as-you-go "went out the door with the bailout bill." (Moderator and Center Director Larry Jacobs did not get the 'yes or no' answer he perhaps wanted).
1:50 p.m.Franken says a balanced budget is important, and criticizes President Bush for taking America from its biggest budget surplus to its biggest budget deficit.
1:53 p.m.Franken comments that when Republicans complain about how government doesn't work, "they prove it every time they are in power."
1:58 p.m.Franken has only mentioned Norm Coleman one time during the first hour of his speech and Q&A. He has not mentioned Dean Barkley at all so far.
2:00 p.m.When asked what he would do to help out rural Minnesotans aside from energy development, Franken stated many rural parts of the country need broadband to stay connected to the world. He also says America needs to improve education in rural areas.
2:08 p.m.To help the lower classes, Franken supports increased funding of Pell Grants and more investment in early childhood education.
2:10 p.m.Franken ends by saying America has a choice: "we can drive off the precipice or we can elect Barack Obama."