'This Week' Transcript: Bonuses, Bailouts and Budgets

This Week

ABC'S "THIS WEEK WITH GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS"

MARCH 22, 2009

SPEAKERS: GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, HOST

JARED BERNSTEIN, CHIEF ECONOMIST TO VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN

SEN. KENT CONRAD, D-N.D.

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS, R-MAINE

REP. MIKE PENCE, R-IND.

[*] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Good morning, and welcome to "This Week."

Bonus anger boils over.

(UNKNOWN): Arrogance, incompetence and greed.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Washington responds.

(UNKNOWN): The people have said, "No." In fact, they've said, "Hell no."

(UNKNOWN): The only way to get their money back is to tax it back.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: They've got a bomb strapped to them. You don't want them to blow up.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Did AIG and the banks get what they deserve or has Congress gone too far? What does the bonus battle mean for Obama's budget, the treasury secretary, and his new bank plan? Questions for top players from the House, the Senate, and the White House, our "This Week" debate.

Then, the president hits Leno's couch and ESPN, but should he have stayed home? That and all the week's politics on our roundtable with George Will, Donna Brazile, Robert Reich, and ABC's business correspondent Betsy Stark.

And, as always, the Sunday funnies.

COLBERT: Let's go get AIG!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: From the heart of the nation's capital, "This Week" with ABC News chief Washington correspondent George Stephanopoulos, live from the Newseum on Pennsylvania Avenue.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Hello again.

Well, you can sum up Washington's agenda this week in just two words: anger management. The key question: how to deal with the rage unleashed by those AIG bonuses without undermining the broader effort to fix our financial system.

To debate what's been done and what comes next, we're joined this morning by Republican Senator Susan Collins, a key member of the Senate Appropriations Committee; Congressman Mike Pence, the chairman of the House Republican Conference; from the White House, Jared Bernstein, chief economist to Vice President Biden; and the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, Kent Conrad.

Welcome to all of you. And let's begin with those AIG bonuses.

Senator Conrad, the House passed a 90 percent excise tax on any firm that got more than $100 billion bonuses to any firms getting more than $5 billion from the federal government. Will the Senate pass a similar excise tax?

CONRAD: The simple answer is, "I don't know."

STEPHANOPOULOS: Will you vote for one?

CONRAD: I've got my doubts whether that's the best way to do this. I think there are certain constitutional questions about the imposition of a tax on a limited group of people. But, look, I don't think there's any question we've got to try to do everything we can to get the bonuses back.

You know, if -- if I were in charge of AIG, I'd call in these folks and I'd say, "Look, you either give them back or you're fired." That we can do, because we own the company.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But the government doesn't yet have the ability -- the treasury secretary is seeking it -- to get the resolution authority. But right now, they say -- the White House says the government doesn't have that ability.

CONRAD: I'll tell you who does have the ability, is the man who's running AIG. He is in charge of the company. He could call in those people and say, "Look, you either give it back or you're going to be fired."

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