Summers on the Economy: “Free-Fall” is Over

Jun 12, 2009 2:07pm

ABC's Zunaira Zaki reports:

Speaking at a Council of Foreign Relations conference on economic policy today, Larry Summers director of the White House National Economic Council, said the worst is behind us and that now is the time to work on regulating the financial system to prevent future crises.

The measures the government has taken or will take to deal with the financial crisis, Summers said are "of necessity and not of choice" and will be "as temporary as possible." 

He added that the "sense of free-fall" in the economy is no longer present and that now when the economic team briefs the President each morning "they exceed expectations about as often as they do not."

While the loss of 345,000 jobs is significant, Summers said it's important to note that the economy was losing almost twice as many jobs each month just a few months ago.

He warned of " false dawns" but added that, "we are closer to the end of the crisis than we were six months ago."

He said the president believes now is the right time to tackle economic regulation because "once the crisis has passed the wheels for reform will pass as well."

In criticizing the current system of regulation, Summers said that regulators should not be competing for institutions.  He also said that there should be much more stringent regulation of large institutions, apparently referring to the "to big to fail" companies that have received the bulk of government bailout funds.

In the last generation, Summers said there has been a major crisis every three years.  In each case, he said, problems emanating from the financial sector profoundly disrupted the lives of hundreds of thousands or even tens of millions of people. "Surely our fellow citizens are right to demand of those of us involved with the financial system greater stability and safety" Summers said.

Summers wouldn't comment on whether letting Lehman Brothers fail was the right decision.  Instead he said the events of the weekend that led to Lehman's bankruptcy filing were proof that authorities did not have the right legal tools to deal with the situation.
When asked about the budget deficit, Summers brought up health-care reform saying "we will succeed this time" because the debate is focused on limiting spending which is "the most important driver of the budget deficit."

Summers admitted that the government's program to deal with banks' so-called toxic assets is "expected to do less business" than originally expected, but that is "good news rather than bad news."


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