When in doubt, blame Wall Street

President Barack Obama accused Wall Street of seeking an "easy" way out of the financial mire, after the announcement of his new industry rescue plan sent stocks dipping sharply.

Instead of a painless rebound for debt-laden banks, Obama promised more "tough love," peppering his remarks with populism as he toured a Florida city hard-hit by the mortgage crisis.

The president also hailed a hard-fought personal victory as the Senate passed its 838 billion dollar version of his economic stimulus plan, setting up tough negotiations between both chambers in Congress over the final package.

"That is good news," Obama said. "It is a good start" he said announcing the Senate move at a town hall meeting, drawing cheers from an enthusiastic crowd.

The vote came after a small group of moderate Republican senators voted with mainstream Democrats to overcome Republican concerns over the size and makeup of the plan.

Obama is pressing lawmakers to send him a final bill by the weekend.

Later, Obama had sharp words for banking and finance sector following the release by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner of a new plan to clean their books of bad debt.

"Wall Street I think is hoping for an easy out on this thing and there is no easy out," Obama told ABC’s "Nightline" program when asked about the markets’ negative verdict to the plan.

"Essentially what you’ve got are a set of banks that have not been as transparent as we need to be in terms of what their books look like," the president said in excerpts of the interview.

"What we’ve tried to do is to apply some of the tough love that’s going to be necessary," Obama said.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average slid 4.62 percent and the Nasdaq dipped 4.20 percent after Geithner announced the plan, which could channel more than a trillion dollars of public and private investment.

Earlier, Obama sought to balance the announcement of that politically controversial plan, with the promise of help for hard-pressed homeowners in the next few weeks.

"We know we are going to have to help homeowners, not just banks but homeowners as well," he said in Fort Myers, Florida.

"I know how frustrating it is for taxpayers when they’re looking and they’re saying, ‘let me get this straight — you’ve got a guy who’s making 20 million a year who ran his bank into the ground, and now we’ve got to come in and clean up the mess?’"

But the president, who has been warning of economic catastrophe if Congress does not finally clear the bill, cautioned the current dire situation still did not rank alongside the worst-ever US economic meltdown.

"Now, I think we’ve got to keep perspective. We’re not going through the Great Depression," Obama told ABC.

"I know there have been some analogies there, but when (president Franklin Roosevelt took over in 1933) unemployment at that time was 30 percent, as opposed to 7.5 or 7.6 (percent)."

A future phase of the media blitz also became clear Tuesday, as White House aides said Obama would address a joint session of Congress on February 24, to formally lay out his agenda to lawmakers and the American people.

Obama’s choice of this southwestern Florida city — a gateway to the Gulf of Mexico — to address the housing crisis was calculated.

In 2008, the Cape Coral-Fort Myers area had the highest foreclosure rate in the United States, with 12 percent of home units hit by a foreclosure-related notice, according to real estate groups.

The Florida Association of Realtors said median house prices have fallen to a third of their previous rate, and now sit at just over 100,000 dollars.

The area has 10 percent unemployment, a rate that has tripled in two years, and the area shed 12,000 jobs in the past year.

Obama’s spokesman Robert Gibbs said the president would turn up the political heat with his address to the House of Representatives and Senate on February 24.

First-year presidents usually do not give a full-scale State of the Union address. But in modern times, the address to Congress has become a feature of the symbolic first 100 days in office of new commanders-in-chief.

Tuesday’s appearance followed Obama’s first prime-time White House news conference on Monday and an earlier trip to economically blighted Indiana.

On Thursday, Obama was set to stump in another economic black spot, in his home state of Illinois.