Geithner: Health Care Bill Good for the Long Haul

One of the main targets of public outrage has been the controversial $700 billion Wall Street bailout, first enacted by the Bush administration and continued by President Obama. Earlier this month Geithner extended the bailout program until next October.

Even more than 15 months after the program started, critics still argue that the bailout helped Wall Street, but not Main Street.

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"We're in a much better position today because the president was willing to do unpopular things quickly and early with very substantial force to fix this," Geithner said, citing that the bailout will cost taxpayers $200 billion less than first expected.

Just last month, Republicans at a Joint Economic Committee hearing called for Geithner to step down. The night before the hearing, a Democrat – Rep. Peter DeFazio of Oregon – also called for his ouster.

"I knew this was going to be very tough and difficult," Geithner said of his work, "but, you know, our job is to do what we think is necessary to help get the economy back on track.

"And what we did to help break the back of this financial panic was hugely effective at much lower cost than anybody expected."

As evidence of the success of the administration's work, Geithner pointed to recent economic improvements, such as the growth of the nation's gross domestic product during the third quarter.

"The policies that the president put in place, they are doing what they had to do, what they're supposed to do, and we have an economy that's growing again at a rate faster than we would have thought, earlier than we would have thought," Geithner said.

However, he warned that the nation will not see job growth in December, despite job losses slowing to only 11,000 last month. Job growth, he forecast, will possibly return before this spring.

"It's still a very tough economy," he said. "The crisis just caused a huge amount of damage to people's basic confidence in their economic future. You see that in business confidence, consumer confidence, too. But confidence is improving."

When job growth does resume, Geithner cautioned that "you can't be sure you're going to have a straight, steady path, because, again, this was a real mess and just a huge amount of damage was done, and it's going to take some time still to get out of this."

In the meantime, the administration has pushed Congress to launch a new jobs bill to put people back to work. While the administration's $787 billion stimulus approaches its second year, Geithner said that there is "a good case for modest, targeted set of measures now."

The financial bailout and the stimulus have both played a key role in sending the nation's budget deficit soaring to record levels -- $1.4 trillion for fiscal year 2009 – in the wake of the recession. Today, Geithner emphasized that once the recession is over, the president will turn his focus to bringing the country's fiscal house back into order.

"The president understands and we understand that for this economy to grow over time, people need to understand we will have to bring those deficits down," he said. "And we will start to do that once recovery is firmly established and we're confident the private sector can carry this forward and start to invest and create jobs.

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