Transcript: Timothy Geithner Interview with George Stephanopoulos

STEPHANOPOULOS: I understand that for private firms. But when you've got private firms who have no connection with the federal government, but when you've got these banks who are getting so much -- so many subsidies from the federal government, why should they be allowed to do this?

GEITHNER: Well, what...

STEPHANOPOULOS: It's very risky.

GEITHNER: No what -- you're exactly right. What the -- it is an obligation of government -- and, in some ways, this was the failure of the system we had, that, you know, we had in place for 70 years after the Great Depression. But it -- the markets just outgrew it. The obligation of government is to prevent firms from taking risks that could imperil the economy and to prevent people from taking advantage of their customers. Those are obligations of policy and government. We did not do a good job as -- as a country in preventing those things and that's the centerpiece of what the reforms are trying to establish.

STEPHANOPOULOS: How concerned are you that these big banks are getting scapegoated by the public and that -- and this is going in another direction -- and that government could end up going too far?

GEITHNER: I -- I'm not concerned about that now but it's important for people to understand, you cannot separate, really, Wall Street and Main Street. They're deeply connected. And as we learned in this crisis, when bad things happen in banks and you don't have the tools to manage those things, the effects are sweeping, [INAUDIBLE] --a huge amount of damage to the innocent. So it is very important to the country that we have a stronger, more stable financial system that provides better protections. And what our system does, it does very well and we want to make sure it does well in the future, is make sure it takes the savings of Americans and channel those to growing companies so that we're growing faster as a country, we're financing future innovation. That's what our system used to do extraordinarily well. It still does very well. We're going to make sure it emerges in a stronger position to do that in the future.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But that's not exactly what's happening in the last year or so, is it? I mean banks have been -- gotten these incredibly low interest rates. That's taken money out of people that hold bank accounts. Yet we haven't seen the banks lend that money at the right rates back into the economy.

GEITHNER: Actually, it's -- it's really much better than that, George. When -- again, when the president took office, nobody could get credit. No banks were lending. People could not borrow money. They could not issue equity. And because the president moved so quickly to bring transparency back to the market, force banks to go raise private capital and repay the taxpayer, borrowing rates for companies, for individuals, whether you want to buy a house or a car, for municipal governments, are dramatically lower today than they were when we came into office. So credit is much more available. And that's why the economy is now growing again. Now, it's still hard in parts of the financial system because, you know, this crisis caused amount of damage. But credit is much more affordable today, much more available, not just when we came in office, but than anyone expected because...

STEPHANOPOULOS: So, are you satisfied with the amount of credit banks are putting out right now?

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