"I do hope that we're going to see a change in culture where everybody in the financial system starts recognizing that $100 million bonuses annually are not a birthright," he said. "We've got to recognize that if you're going to reward people for success, you've also got to punish them for failure, and that hasn't been happening."
Obama resisted the suggestion made by some economists that the best solution would be to nationalize the failing banks, pointing out differences between the U.S. economy and culture and those of other countries.
"[Sweden] took over the banks, nationalized them, got rid of the bad assets, resold the banks, and a couple years later they were going again. So you'd think looking at it, Sweden looks like a good model. Here's the problem -- Sweden had, like, five banks," he said, laughing. "We've got thousands of banks. You know, the scale of the U.S. economy and the capital markets are so vast and the, the problems in terms of managing and overseeing anything of that scale, I think, would… our assessment was that it wouldn't make sense. And we also have different traditions in this country."
Obama traveled to Florida to discuss his economic recovery plans with ordinary Americans, and he said he's learned already from his time in the White House that "the bubble is powerful."
"I do think that the possibilities of thinking inwardly are very great," he said. "And you see it happening. You see it happening to presidents. You see it happening to members of Congress and the Senate."
The president has also learned quickly that achieving a spirit of bipartisanship in Washington may be easier said than done. Obama's economic stimulus bill, which passed the Senate today in a vote of 61-37, has been widely criticized by Republicans.
Obama stressed that, given the current economic climate, "not doing anything is simply not an option."
"I think there are a number of different arguments that have been leveled at, at this recovery package," he said. "There are a set of folks who just don't believe in government intervening in the marketplace, period. ... I think that fight's already been won; the American people certainly think so. That's not the argument that makes much sense to them."
He added that the Senate version of the bill did address some Republican concerns.
"Where there are good ideas for very effective job creation, I've adopted them," he said. "When the Republicans make suggestions about certain tax cuts that they think will work, some of them, you know, the evidence shows that they may be right."
When asked to respond to the fact that his first bill did not receive a single Republican vote in the House, Obama said, "I think that they made a decision that they want to continue the same fights that we've been having over the last decade.
"I think it's pretty clear that the American people would like to see a different way of doing business. But old habits break hard and, and you know, I, I understand that and so we're going to keep on reaching out and eventually, I have confidence that it's going to pay off."
Despite the difficulties of his first few weeks in office, the president said he still believes in trying "to get people to work together" and doesn't think he's been too nice.