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Financial meltdown changes the game for next president

The financial meltdown will change many things in America, and we can start with campaign promises. You can say goodbye to universal health care, a cornerstone of Barack Obama's campaign strategy. Massive medical benefits are now impossible because the bailout will take all the money.

Also, it's sayonara to John McCain's across-the-board tax cuts. The Democrats will likely control Congress again and, in the face of a $750 billion expenditure, there is little chance taxes will decline in any significant way.

So both candidates find themselves losing a major core issue because of the greedy, stupid mortgage scandal.

Polls show that the folks are angry, as they should be. A Fox News survey puts President Bush's approval rating at 26 percent. Shortly after 9/11, the president had an approval rating of 88 percent, so you can clearly see how the once mighty have fallen.

Just two weeks ago, the Palin bounce had John McCain leading Barack Obama in just about every national poll. Now, McCain has fallen behind Obama, and it's directly because of the economic madness.

Some Americans object to the feds bailing out companies that trafficked in risky mortgages. But if the government does not allocate taxpayer money to stop the economic bleeding, then what? Do you let the United States slide into a depression?

The American economy is greatly dependent on foreign investment - oil sheiks and Chinese entrepreneurs buying our stocks and bonds. If overseas investors believe the U.S. economy is fundamentally unstable, they will pull their money out. That would be catastrophic for America.

Basically, the feds are playing a confidence game right now. They are assuring the world that our economy will not collapse. That assurance is vital.

But, once again, it is the folks who have to pay the bills, and pay we will. For the next four years, our tax dollars will be basically used for two things: Fighting terrorists abroad and bailing out greenheads on Wall Street.

The FBI is investigating some corporate managers who made big money while their companies burned. People like former Merrill Lynch CEO Stanley O'Neal, who allowed his company to buy bad mortgage paper and then, when things went south, walked away with a reported $150 million severance package. Meanwhile, millions of Merrill stockholders got hammered.

In any federal bailout, two things have to happen. First, the companies involved must pay back any 'loans' after they get back on their feet. Secondly, the government must control the pay of the managers. That is non-negotiable. No more tax dollars for greenhead incompetents like O'Neal.

In the end, the American working person will pull the country out of this mess just like we always do. But no longer can we the people trust the government to look out for us. The covenant between the folks and Washington has been badly damaged, there's no question about it.

And that may take a longer time to repair than the stupid mortgage mess.

Veteran TV news anchor and author Bill O'Reilly is a host on Fox News. His "Radio Factor" can be heard from 1 to 3 p.m. weekdays on NewsTalk 1300 WIMO-AM.