Obama: No 'Easy Out' for Wall Street

The following is a transcript from ABC News' Terry Moran's interview with President Obama. The president discussed his economic recovery plan with Moran in Fort Meyers, Fla., today.

TERRY MORAN: So, Treasury Secretary Geithner today has laid out the plan for the banks and judging by the reaction in the markets, Wall Street really doesn't like it.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, you know, Wall Street, I think, is hoping for an easy out on this thing and there is no easy out. Essentially, what you've got are a set a banks that have not been as transparent as we need to be in terms of what their books look like.

President Obama

And we're going to have to hold out the Band-Aid a little bit and go ahead and just be clear about some of the losses that have been made because until we do that, we're not going to be able to attract private capital into the marketplace. And so, you know, I think that you have two choices in this situation: You can prolong the agony and shareholders will be happy until they're not happy, and that could be a year from now or two years from now, or, in the case of Japan, eight years later.

Or you can just go ahead and acknowledge that, yeah, there's a lot of work that has to be done to put these banks back on a firmer footing.


Video of Terry Morans interview with President Obama to air on Nightline Tuesday.

Can you say how much, ballpark figure, that will cost the American taxpayer? A trillion, a trillion-five, two trillion?

OBAMA: I can't say the ballpark figure. What I can say is --

MORAN: Why not?

OBAMA: Well, because ultimately, what happens is going to depend on how the markets respond over the long term, not today or the next day but a month from now or two months from now. How effective we are in actually cleaning out some of these bad assets out of these banks.

If we're doing a good job and we've got a template that creates transparency and accountability, clarity and consistency in terms of how we're applying this program, then what we'll end up seeing is private capital coming back into the marketplace.

If we do a poor job, then private capital will continue to stay out and frankly, at, at a certain point, the government can't replace all that private capital, so you know, our job is to get this right, get the model right. We've got 350 billion dollars of the TARP money that's been allocated but we also have the Federal Reserve Bank and the FDIC, all of whom were consulted in designing this plan.

And those resources -- I think the most important thing is to give both the market, but also the taxpayer, confidence that we're spending that money well. And if we do that well, then I think we can make an assessment down the road in terms of what else we might have to do.

MORAN: There are a lot of economists who look at these banks and they say all that garbage that's in them renders them essentially insolvent. Why not just nationalize the banks?

OBAMA: Well, you know, it's interesting. There are two countries who have gone through some big financial crises over the last decade or two. One was Japan, which never really acknowledged the scale and magnitude of the problems in their banking system and that resulted in what's called "The Lost Decade." They kept on trying to paper over the problems. The markets sort of stayed up because the Japanese government kept on pumping money in. But, eventually, nothing happened and they didn't see any growth whatsoever.

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