Obama goes after Wall Street over bailout in his weekly address

President Barack Obama vowed to recoup billions of dollars in bailout money paid out to prevent a major crisis among large financial firms in his radio address Saturday, declaring, “We’re not going to let Wall Street take the money and run.”

Obama announced his plan to levy a new fee on large banks and similar institutions earlier in the week, seeking to reclaim the rest of the nearly $1 trillion distributed to prevent a collapse of the financial system in 2008 and 2009. The federal government already has regained a substantial portion of the bailout money but Obama insisted the banks were obliged to offer up more.

{mosads}Obama described the bailouts as “distasteful but necessary” and indicated that generous bonuses being offered to executives — which he previously described as “offensive” — were a sign that these companies are in good enough shape to contribute more to the economic recovery.

“We want the taxpayers’ money back, and we’re going to collect every dime,” Obama said. “If the big financial firms can afford massive bonuses, they can afford to pay back the American people.”

The bailout program, along with federal assistance offered to automakers and other large spending items promoted by the Obama administration to spark the flagging economy, have proved politically unpopular. The bank fee is part of a larger strategy being rolled out by the president and his Democratic allies in Congress, who are eager to convince the public they are targeting their efforts to improving the economy.

The fee would apply to approximately 50 financial firms with at least $50 billion in assets, including those that did not receive bailout money, for at least 10 years. The banks would be assessed a fee of 15 basis points, or 0.15 percent, on its assets, excluding core capital and deposits insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. The administration has drawn criticism for exempting some of the biggest recipients of bailout money from the fee, such as American International Group and the automakers.

Banks staunchly oppose the tax, arguing it is too steep and complaining that other sectors are not being targeted. Republicans decry the proposal as a money grab by the Democrats.

Obama blasted his critics, maintaining that financial services companies are largely responsible for the poor economy and are on sure enough footing because of the bailouts to afford the tax.

“Now, like clockwork, the banks and politicians who curry their favor are already trying to stop this fee from going into effect,” Obama said. “The very same firms reaping billions of dollars in profits, and reportedly handing out more money in bonuses and compensation than ever before in history, are now pleading poverty. It’s a sight to see.”

Tags Barack Obama

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