"Good Morning America" anchor George Stephanopoulos interviewed Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner in Washington, D.C.
The following is a transcript of the interview, which took place on Wednesday, April 21, 2010.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, HOST: Mr. Secretary, thanks for doing this.
TIMOTHY GEITHNER, TREASURY SECRETARY: Happy to do it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The president seems to be on a crusade with his financial reform. And I wonder if you can just break it down for everyone watching at home. How is this going to make a difference in -- in the lives of every average Americans?
GEITHNER: Well, one way to think about it is just to look at what happened in this financial crisis. You know, it caused eight-and-a-half million Americans to lose their jobs. You saw thousands of businesses fail. You saw people wake up and see their savings just plummet in value – huge amount of damage to the American economy. This is what financial crises do. And they're deeply unfair, because the damage is indiscriminate. The pain is indiscriminate. You know, it captures -- it doesn't just hit the people who were responsible, it hits a huge amount of innocent victims. So we have huge obligation to act to prevent that. And what reform will do, it won't just bring more transparency and disclosure to these markets, but it's going to bring basic protections to consumers and investors we did not have. And it's going to bring tough limits with teeth on risk-taking to prevent these kind of large firms from taking us to the edge of -- of the abyss again.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And you think you will get a bipartisan deal?
GEITHNER: I think we will, yes. I mean I -- again, I've spent a huge amount of time up there on both sides of the aisle, a lot of time with Republicans, too. And people I've talked to want to be for a strong bill, not just -- everybody says they're for reform now, George, because you can't be against reform given what happened. But what matters is are they going to be for strong reforms? And, again, based on what I've heard and what they tell me, they want to be for strong reforms.
STEPHANOPOULOS: There are a lot of people who are questioning whether what you're pushing for is strong enough. I mean you've got a situation now where the six biggest banks in the country have assets equal to more than 60 percent of the GDP. Why shouldn't those big banks be broken up?
GEITHNER: This is a very strong package of reforms. It's going to set limits we've never had in place on risk-taking across the system -- limits on how large firms can be and how risky they can be. And if -- if -- the best measure of whether this is tough is -- you know, we've been doing this for 14 months. There's enormous resistance, still, across the U.S. financial community and by large institutions around the world to what we're trying to work through. That's why it's been so hard to get this done, because people recognize this is very tough. It's going to transform the role of our financial system in the economy and make it much more stable, give people much more protection.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Yet they're fighting it at a time when these banks are just making staggering profits. I mean, Goldman Sachs -- 27 percent profits. You can't find a business where you make profits at that level. And it's a sure sign, isn't it, that there's not enough competition?