Secretary Tim Geithner Discusses the 'Healthy, but Slow' Economic Recovery

So we're going to work very hard at that with -- it's going to require the Congress too. But I think if you listen carefully now, and this is encouraging, I think there's much broader awareness in the Congress about the risks in running large deficits. You know, if you just -- it changed a lot relative where it was five, six, seven, eight years ago where people thought it was responsible to go out and substantially cut taxes permanently and borrow to finance those tax cuts and take the risk of adding to our long term deficits.

So I think there's much more -- much stronger political support for getting to this point. But our first responsibility is to get growth back, get unemployment down, and get businesses back investing. That's our first responsibility.

MORAN: So do you think that this relationship between China and the United States -- massive creditor, massive debt -- has to change?

GEITHNER: I would say the thing about us and the world, China's part of that. That's really us and the rest of the world. We're going to have to save more as a country. Average families in America are going to have to save more. The government's going to have to spend less, consume less, bring those deficits down.

And the world is going to be less able to depend on us and the American consumer to pull the world out of these downturns. So we're going to need the rest of the world doing more to strengthen their economy, because they're going to be less dependent on us, that they won't depend on us. And we're not going to allow a recovery. We're going to do our best to avoid a recovery that's financed by excessive borrowing again.

MORAN: Last Question. Is there a lack of understanding, do you think, in the financial community by how close they came to the American taxpayer rescue?

GEITHNER: I do think there was a period of stunningly bad judgments by the leaders of our financial systems, by their boards of directors. And I think that made the crisis worse. And I think that helped precipitate a loss -- big loss of confidence and trust in the financial system as a and confidence. Did a lot of damage to that trust and confidence, and I think we need to do a lot to earn that back.

And that's going to require a period where they demonstrate that they're prepared to avoid and not get back into the kind of practices, behavior that got us into this mess on compensation practices. But in the communities where they operate and lend, they need to work very hard to make sure that they're demonstrating to businesses in their communities, the people that depend on them, why it is important to have a financial system that works better and can meet their needs.

So I think we have a ways to go to rebuild that trust and confidence.

MORAN: So you don't think they get it?

GEITHNER: Yes. I'm sure many of them get it. But again, it's like life, you know. They're going to have to earn back the confidence of the American public, and that's going to take a lot of effort.

MORAN: And how are they to do it?

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PHOTO: Josh Shaw watches a news conference for USCs football coach Steve Sarkisian in Los Angeles, Calif. on Dec. 3, 2013.
Michael Owen Baker/Los Angeles Daily News/AP Photo