January 16th, 2010
08:00 AM ET
8 years ago

Obama: We won't let Wall Street 'take the money and run'

Full text of President Obama's weekly address, as released by the White House:

Remarks of President Barack Obama
As Prepared for Delivery
Weekly Address
January 16, 2010

Over the past two years, more than seven million Americans have lost their jobs. Countless businesses have been forced to shut their doors. Few families have escaped the pain of this terrible recession. Rarely does a day go by that I do not hear from folks who are hurting. That is why we have pushed so hard to rebuild this economy.

But even as we work tirelessly to dig our way out of this hole, it is important that we address what led us into such a deep mess in the first place. Much of the turmoil of this recession was caused by the irresponsibility of banks and financial institutions on Wall Street. These financial firms took huge, reckless risks in pursuit of short-term profits and soaring bonuses. They gambled with borrowed money, without enough oversight or regard for the consequences. And when they lost, they lost big. Little more than a year ago, many of the largest and oldest financial firms in the world teetered on the brink of collapse, overwhelmed by the consequences of their irresponsible decisions. This financial crisis nearly pulled the entire economy into a second Great Depression.

As a result, the American people – struggling in their own right – were placed in a deeply unfair and unsatisfying position. Even though these financial firms were largely facing a crisis of their own creation, their failure could have led to an even greater calamity for the country. That is why the previous administration started a program – the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP – to provide these financial institutions with funds to survive the turmoil they helped unleash. It was a distasteful but necessary thing to do.

Many originally feared that most of the $700 billion in TARP money would be lost. But when my administration came into office, we put in place rigorous rules for accountability and transparency, which cut the cost of the bailout dramatically. We have now recovered most of the money we provided to the banks. That’s good news, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s not good enough. We want the taxpayers’ money back, and we’re going to collect every dime.

That is why, this week, I proposed a new fee on major financial firms to compensate the American people for the extraordinary assistance they provided to the financial industry. And the fee would be in place until the American taxpayer is made whole. Only the largest financial firms with more than $50 billion in assets will be affected, not community banks. And the bigger the firm – and the more debt it holds – the larger the fee. Because we are not only going to recover our money and help close our deficits; we are going to attack some of the banking practices that led to the crisis.

That’s important. The fact is, financial firms play an essential role in our economy. They provide capital and credit to families purchasing homes, students attending college, businesses looking to start up or expand. This is critical to our recovery. That is why our goal with this fee – and with the common-sense financial reforms we seek – is not to punish the financial industry. Our goal is to prevent the abuse and excess that nearly led to its collapse. Our goal is to promote fair dealings while punishing those who game the system; to encourage sustained growth while discouraging the speculative bubbles that inevitably burst. Ultimately, that is in the shared interest of the financial industry and the American people.

Of course, I would like the banks to embrace this sense of mutual responsibility. So far, though, they have ferociously fought financial reform. The industry has even joined forces with the opposition party to launch a massive lobbying campaign against common-sense rules to protect consumers and prevent another crisis.

Now, like clockwork, the banks and politicians who curry their favor are already trying to stop this fee from going into effect. The very same firms reaping billions of dollars in profits, and reportedly handing out more money in bonuses and compensation than ever before in history, are now pleading poverty. It’s a sight to see.

Those who oppose this fee say the banks can’t afford to pay back the American people without passing on the costs to their shareholders and customers. But that’s hard to believe when there are reports that Wall Street is going to hand out more money in bonuses and compensation just this year than the cost of this fee over the next ten years. If the big financial firms can afford massive bonuses, they can afford to pay back the American people.

Those who oppose this fee have also had the audacity to suggest that it is somehow unfair. That because these firms have already returned what they borrowed directly, their obligation is fulfilled. But this willfully ignores the fact that the entire industry benefited not only from the bailout, but from the assistance extended to AIG and homeowners, and from the many unprecedented emergency actions taken by the Federal Reserve, the FDIC, and others to prevent a financial collapse. And it ignores a far greater unfairness: sticking the American taxpayer with the bill.

That is unacceptable to me, and to the American people. We’re not going to let Wall Street take the money and run. We’re going to pass this fee into law. And I’m going to continue to work with Congress on common-sense financial reforms to protect people and the economy from the kind of costly and painful crisis we’ve just been through. Because after a very tough two years, after a crisis that has caused so much havoc, if there is one lesson that we can learn, it’s this: we cannot return to business as usual.

Thank you very much.

Filed under: President Obama
soundoff (58 Responses)
  1. Hey Obama

    Obama, quit blaming Wall Street. It was you and your Congress that lead the push to give them the money in the first place, claiming that the sky would fall if we the taxpayers didn't fork over billions.

    Maybe we should be taxing your paycheck with surcharges and sticking it to the Pelosi and Reid gang.

    January 16, 2010 08:13 am at 8:13 am |
  2. Alan

    I can't believe that he actually said this. Are the American people so stupid that they actually believe this?

    January 16, 2010 08:15 am at 8:15 am |
  3. Debby

    What an incompetent address. When Wall Street is thriving so is the economy because people are investing. Obama is just one big blame game.

    January 16, 2010 08:24 am at 8:24 am |
  4. Paul

    If Obama actually cared about the people not working, he would NOT be doing the following:
    1. Push so hard on this pathetic, negotiated behind closed doors, "healthcare" that doesn't solve any real problems, increases the cost of healthcare, and is something we just can't afford.
    2. Talk about tax increases to punish people from driving their existing cars, heating their homes, or buying food. Cost increases will hurt people when they can't afford to be hurt.

    Close to 20% real unemployment and Obama isn't willing to give employers an incentive to hire people or confidence they won't be the next target of his Czars!

    Now that the Unions are getting a free ride so now there's talk of long term capital gains rates being increased. If retired people live off the interest (as my parents do), what will an "nominal" increase from 15% to 20% do? That's a 33% increase in effective tax rate for retired people. That will hurt retired people who live off the interest of their savings. But, the real effect will be more lost jobs. Money invested is used by companies to buy capital and create jobs. Less money is less jobs.

    I've been a Democrat (wanted Dean elected)...no more.

    What a pathetic inexperienced president & democratic congress! They're over the head and should be fired.

    January 16, 2010 08:27 am at 8:27 am |
  5. Harold Trainer, USAF RET

    This is a big dance, smoke and mirrors designed for a political purpose. Nothing will come of the commission hearings or of Obama's lip service. Money and only money talks and provides access in our government and the too big to fail organizations never fail. Health care industry is not being reformed much because it is too big to fail, like AIG, and our congress is taking too much money from big business lobbyists and it is ruining our nation. Harold Trainer, Ky

    January 16, 2010 08:30 am at 8:30 am |
  6. Paul

    The bank fee is funny. Sure. It's a $9B / year tax increase that will only affect the bad guys. It won't be passed along to people that can't afford it in the way of fees.

    Look at what happened when Obama tried to help people with their credit cards. That worked well. One of my credit cards dropped me. (And my credit is over 700).

    Look at what happened with the Cash for Clunkers: $24K – $43K effective cost per car & some dealers still waiting for the money.

    Look at what happened with the job stimulus: AZ's 15th congressional district gets 30 jobs. (Psst. There is no 15th district).

    Look at what happened with the $8K stimulus to buy a home. How long does it take to amend your past years tax return? 20 weeks?

    January 16, 2010 08:38 am at 8:38 am |
  7. sifto77

    You already have, Obama, Between that and the unions, you are trying to break us.. regular Americans are out in the cold.....you have given away the store to left wing elitists and thugs....

    January 16, 2010 08:40 am at 8:40 am |
  8. Obama is a Joke

    The same goes for Obama, Reid, and Pelosi – this is the people's money, not yours.

    January 16, 2010 08:46 am at 8:46 am |
  9. Eileen

    Obama is so full of himself. My administration this and my administration that. He is not a king or royalty. He needs to get over himself. America has.

    January 16, 2010 08:47 am at 8:47 am |
  10. Debra from Georgia

    Alright President Obam, I been against, but I am glad you are doing this. They need to pay our money back. If they pass the cost onto the customer, we will take our business to the small banks.

    January 16, 2010 08:49 am at 8:49 am |
  11. frank

    more lies, and i voted for him, he took 150.00 from my SS cheak, and i am not the only one, cant wait till 2012. my SS cheak went to wall street. the poor man dont have a chance.

    January 16, 2010 08:54 am at 8:54 am |
  12. El Kababa

    Here is what we have learned from the current recession:

    1. A man will do anything for a hundred million dollars, including bankrupt his nation.

    2. Banks will do again what the did before, unless we regulate them. Remember, CEOs called this recession a "failure of government to regulate" but only to evade personal responsibility. They are like kids who say, "If you continue to put cookies in the cookie jar, I will continue to steal them."

    3. This generation of business leaders is untrustworthy and incompetent.

    January 16, 2010 08:55 am at 8:55 am |
  13. Obama;s tax on the banks is.....

    a tax on the middle class because the banks will simply raise their rates and fees on all of us to get that money back.....

    This is what happens when you elect a community organizer to the Presidency who has no understanding of even Economics 101.

    Further it is another break ny him of another promise not to raise taxes on people earning under $ 250,000.

    Dumb, dumb, dumb.
    Obama is ONE and DONE.

    January 16, 2010 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  14. If you want something ruined, put a republican in charge

    OMG! This is going to piss off the republicans who worked so hard to give them the money with no accountability.

    January 16, 2010 09:13 am at 9:13 am |
  15. Yas

    You are absolutely right Mr. President...The Big Banks continue to benefit from the 0% interest they get to borrow money for at taxpayers expense...it is not just the TARP dollars they paid back.

    It is also the insensitiveness to our pain so many people are suffering from loss of jobs, loss of homes, loss of health insurance, loss of credit, loss of ability to get credit at reasonable rates, loss of dignity and hope and in some cases loss of familiy.

    In fact, not only should you impose the fee on banks as you outlined, you should ALSO tax the individuals getting a bonus over $500,000. per year at 50% like the UK.

    ANY of our politicans who continually do not stand up for the main street population should be taken out of office.....Our problem is our politicians never feel the pain that we, their employers go through...They continue to get paid, have insurance, have retirement have COLA pay increases (they don't have to worry about Social Security, medicare etc) WHY??!! Because we pay for all of it...without any say in the matter...UNTIL that changes... WASHINGTON POLITICS will never change.

    January 16, 2010 09:16 am at 9:16 am |
  16. Silence Dogoode

    Blah...blah...blah...If you want to "bail" some one out why are you STILL trusting those horrible corporations with TARP $$? Why not devide it up amounst all of the tax payers and send us the checks? It is OUR $$$ anyway, and we will not use it for bonuses...we will pay our mortgages, our bills, school loans and feed our children....the federal government created this problem when 2 repubs wrote a law and it was passed by the house by both parties and signed into law by Clinton to lowers the regulations standards. This is the fault of BOTH parties in the federal government, the corporations and the US citizens who continue to vote self interested people into office.

    January 16, 2010 09:20 am at 9:20 am |
  17. Ohio D

    They really think the banks will stop bonuses to pay these fees. Are they stupid? These WILL be passed along directly to the consumers. Not to mention that the biggest users (and abusers) of TARP were AIG, Fannie, Freddie and GM. And they are not even part of this fee/tax idea. Even as a dem, that makes me mad. Plus, at the moment, TARP has made the government $60 billion in fees/dividends/etc from the banks that paid back their loans. About the only guaranteed non-payer (so far) will be GM. A few months ago, TARP was going to loose $350 billion, now it is down to a $100 billion. After they pass these bank (really consumer) fees, TARP will all of a sudden make a profit.

    Business fees and taxes are the new way to tax the American people without the IRS. The government knows they will just be passed to the consumer, but people are stupid and think the business is getting taxed and supports it. When in fact, the stupid person is getting screwed.

    January 16, 2010 09:23 am at 9:23 am |
  18. John D.

    All well and good, however the tax needs to come from the shareholders who reaped a golden harvest and not from the people. Somehow I do not believe Obame can do this without writing in a loophole that would allow this to happen. The Government is filled with incompetant lackeys.

    Also all companies need to be addresses not just the few. All the companies that took federal bailout money including Fannie and Freddie as well as B of A and AIG must be part of this. Come to think of it, Frannie and Freddie need to be disovled and assetts taken and sold to recoup our losses. They will be looking for alot more money in the future as they are run by the most corrupt and incompetant people in the nation. THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT!

    The people who did not want the bailout money but who were forced by the administration should be exempt from this. They did not want it to begin with. The loss there falls on Obama and the imbiciles he has surrounded himself with.

    January 16, 2010 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  19. Theo, NJ

    Wall Street should pay us back, if not diectly, than indirectly with taxes.

    January 16, 2010 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  20. Tom C

    He is absolutly correct. The banks and big corporations must be watched 100% of the time. They will constantly look for unethical reasons to make more money. Sorry, republican conservatives. I do not trust the banks as much as you do not trust Barrack. You want to partner with these people, so be it. They have shown time and again that they will rake the public over the coals and pretend to be your best friend while they do it.

    January 16, 2010 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  21. ran

    Good. These guys just don't get it. How can anyone believe a bonus of any kind is warranted under theses circumstances.

    Not only should we go after the money given to bail them out but every bonus should be taxed at 100%.

    Enough of the greed. Seeing these people can not do the right thing it is time for the gov. to step in.

    January 16, 2010 09:48 am at 9:48 am |

    Too late ... you gave them a handout and now it is gone. You blew it barack. Thanks for NOTHING.

    January 16, 2010 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  23. Priscilla

    President Obama, we know you have the weight of the world on your shoulders. I am praying for you. I trust you to make right decisions for this country and abroad. It's ashame that americans don't stand together to help you. Particulary, republicans, Shaun Hanniby , Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and Sarah Palin. They spread so much filth that it is unbearable. They are out for your blood and they don't care about America. I am so frickin sick of their negativism and bashing. I wish they would go to war in Afghanistan and fight. Then perhaps they would appreciate our American government and your administration. God bless you President Obama, Americans are praying for you.

    January 16, 2010 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  24. Pierre Blume

    Bravo Mr. President! Put the hammer down!
    The fundamental question that all politicians must ask themselves with consciousness is: does Democracy exists to serve Capitalism, or rather does Capitalism exist to serve the Democracy in which it is allowed to flourish?
    The freemarket fundmentalists would have our Democracy genuflect to Capitalism in the name of the sacred Shareholders of greed, usery, bonuses, and short term profit.
    We, as citizens of a democracy, cannot depend on investment bankers, finanacial pundits, stock traders, or insurance executives to pull the strings which dictate how we raise our kids, prepare for old age, and share our common values in our community.
    In successful democracies, the fundamentals of food, shelter, and medical care are regulated by its elected politicians. Elected politicans must continuously try to factor these three down to a common good. Now,however, the "I got mine" faction of every swing d*** on Wall St who has an MBA, wants to thwart this concept, and instead marches to the tune of "Ameica... Love it or Game it." This is not "citizenship," it's class warfare. America has become a fool's paradise where the Capitalists own the politicians. Phewwy. It leaves a copper-like metallic taste in my mouth.

    January 16, 2010 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  25. buckwheat

    Sounds like a dictator already made, not in the making.What the hell happened to the free enterprise system? He does not mind giving funds to all his cronies who got him elected. Why the double standard? We have never had one government with as many crooks at the helm.

    January 16, 2010 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
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