Geithner on the Record: Toxic Assets

things sensibly over time; and again leave, in our judgment, the government more exposed, assuming more risk than it should, more exposed to loss over time, and in our judgment not a plausible, effective alternative.

Now, we’re the United States of America. We are not Sweden. We have a very complicated financial system. Getting through this requires banks being strong enough again they can lend comfortably through a deep recession, but that’s not enough. We have to complement this program to help strengthen the banking system with a range of approaches to help get these securities markets back to the point where they’re working again.

So that again the basic mechanics that are so important to small business lending, large business borrowing, consumer borrowing, auto finance, student loans, et cetera — that entire framework of mechanism is back to the point where it’s working better for recovery. So our approach is designed to do both those two things.

Now, we are going through a very challenging environment now. There is deep skepticism across the country, deep anger and outrage, frustration about the point — about the place we are in as a country, where people that were careful and prudent in their financial decisions, businesses that were conservative in how they chose how much leverage they took on, are facing substantial damage because of the actions of a range of institutions that took too much risk and brought our financial system and our economy to the point where we’re facing such an acute, deep recession.

That anger and outrage is perfectly understandable and if we are going to get through this we have to engender more confidence in the American people that we’re going to use taxpayer’s money effectively and wisely to, again, help get credit flowing again, help reduce borrowing costs. And we want to make sure that our assistance is not going to reward failure, to benefit people who got us into this mess — and that is critically important.

But as the President said, we also need to make it clear that our actions need to be guided by the basic objective of doing what is necessary to help get recovery back more quickly. And that requires that we have a better functioning financial system, where people are willing to come in and take risk.

The great risk we face now is that after a long period of irresponsibility and excessive risk-taking, that the system will not take enough risk now. And for these programs to work, investors have to be prepared to take risk. And for them to take risk, they have to be more confident than they are today that there’s going to be a clear set of rules of the game applied consistently and enforced fairly going forward.

I’m happy to take any questions. Yes.

Q Sir, you mentioned the municipal market. Chairman Frank and about 25 other members of Congress sent you and Chairman Bernanke a letter to provide temporary relief to the short-term municipal debt market. I’m wondering if that’s been considered

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