Q Thank you. During the campaign you promised that health care negotiations would take place on C-SPAN, and that hasn’t happened. And your administration recently turned down a request from a watchdog group seeking a list of health care executives who have visited the White House to talk about health care reform. Also, the TARP inspector general recently said that your White House is withholding too much information on the bank bailouts. So my question for you is, are you fulfilling your promise of transparency in the White House?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, on the list of health care executives who’ve visited us, most of the time you guys have been in there taking pictures, so it hasn’t been a secret. And my understanding is we just sent a letter out providing a full list of all the executives. But frankly these have mostly been at least photo sprays where you could see who was participating.
With respect to all the negotiations not being on C-SPAN, you will recall in this very room that our kickoff event was here on C-SPAN, and at a certain point you start getting into all kinds of different meetings — Senate Finance is having a meeting, the House is having a meeting. If they wanted those to be on C-SPAN then I would welcome it. I don’t think there are a lot of secrets going on in there.
And the last question with respect to TARP. Let me take a look at what exactly they say we have not provided. I think that we’ve provided much greater transparency than existed prior to our administration coming in. It is a big program. I don’t know exactly what’s been requested. I’ll find out and I will have an answer for you.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. You’ve said the recent bank profits indicate that there’s been no sense of remorse on Wall Street for risky behavior, that we haven’t seen a change in culture there. Do you think that your administration needs to be taking a harder line with Wall Street? And also, would you consider going a step further than your regulatory reform proposals and supporting a fee on risky activities that go beyond traditional lending?
THE PRESIDENT: We were on the verge of a complete financial meltdown. And the reason was because Wall Street took extraordinary risks with other people’s money, they were peddling loans that they knew could never be paid back, they were flipping those loans and leveraging those loans and higher and higher mountains of debt were being built on loans that were fundamentally unsound. And all of us now are paying the price.
Now, I believe it was the right thing to do — as unpopular as it is, it was the right thing for us to do to step in to make sure that the financial system did not collapse, because things would be even worse today had those steps not been taken. It originated under the Bush administration. We continued it because whether you’re on the left or the right, if you talk to economists, they said that this could have the kinds of consequences that would drop us into a deep depression and not simply a very severe recession.