Transcript: Diane Sawyer Interviews Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner sat down for an exclusive interview with "Good Morning America" co-anchor Diane Sawyer Sept. 14, 2009. Geithner discussed the economic crisis of the past year and said he sees progress in the economy, but that "it's just the beginning" and "there's no recovery yet."

The following transcript of their interview has been edited for clarity.

DIANE SAWYER: Mr. Secretary, welcome to our morning.

TIMOTHY GEITHNER:
Nice to be here.

SAWYER:
What's the difference in the way you woke up today and the way you woke up a year ago?

GEITHNER:
It's -- it's dramatically different. You know, a year ago we really were on the verge of a full-scale run, a classic panic. People were starting to think about taking their money out of banks. Hadn't happened in a century. It was a remarkable thing.

SAWYER:
Did you --

GEITHNER:
I think there --

SAWYER:
Did you feel that people were going to be in a situation where their credit cards would not --

GEITHNER:
We -- we --

SAWYER:
-- be of any use anymore?

GEITHNER:
We were --

SAWYER:
G.E. was going to fail.

GEITHNER:
We were never going to let it get to that point. But there was just real fear. Fear -- just dramatic fear. And what happened is the market stopped. And economic activity effectively stopped around the world. Things just came to a grinding halt, because there was so much fear.

SAWYER:
And waking up this morning? What's the biggest fear?

GEITHNER:
Well, I think the -- the biggest fear now -- let's say the biggest challenge, is to make sure we change the rules of the game so this doesn't happen again. That's the biggest challenge. That's the hardest challenge.

SAWYER:
But a lot of people are saying -- you take a look at what's happening right now. The banks are doing a lot of high risk activity already. The percentage of corporate profits that is still in the financial industry, same as it was a year ago. Toxic assets still on the book. That it hasn't changed.

GEITHNER:
Actually, I think a lot of things have changed. But you can't let the -- go back to where it was. And you can -- Congress is going to have to legislate comprehensive reforms if we're going to be able to prevent a crisis like this from happening again. But some important things have happened. Banks are in a much stronger position to withstand the pressures of this recession or this -- this -- broader challenge. Than maybe they were two years ago, a year ago, six months ago, three months ago.

We've had a lot of capital come into the financial system, which is good. These markets are starting to thaw and unfreeze. People can borrow again more easily. The cost of credit has come down for businesses and families quite significantly. And those are because of the actions the president took, the Congress authorized.

SAWYER:
So, you're saying you can guarantee that it will not happen again?

GEITHNER:
No, we can't -- we can't do that. But what we have an obligation to do is to make sure that we put in place rules here and around the world to make that much less likely. Rules that'll protect consumers better. Make the system much more stable. That's the obligation of governments.

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