The change I’d like to see in terms of tax policy is that we have a system, going back to where we were back in the 1990s, where you and I who are doing pretty well pay a little bit more to pay for health care, to pay for energy, to make sure that kids can go to college who aren’t as fortunate as our — as my kids might be. Those are the kinds of measured steps that we can take. But the important thing over the next several months is making sure that we don’t lurch from thing to thing, but we try to make steady progress, build a foundation for long-term economic growth. That’s what I think the American people expect. (Applause.)
Leno: I just read today about Merrill Lynch. They handed out $3.6 billion — it’s not even million anymore, it’s billions in bonuses. I know it would make me feel good — shouldn’t somebody go to jail? (Laughter and applause.) I say that because I watch those people in New York, even people who had lost everything — when Bernard Madoff went to jail, at least they felt they got something.
The President: Right. They got some satisfaction. Here’s the dirty little secret, though. Most of the stuff that got us into trouble was perfectly legal. And that is a sign of how much we’ve got to change our laws — right? We were talking earlier about credit cards, and it’s legal to charge somebody 30 percent on their credit card, and charge fees and so forth that people don’t always know what they’re getting into. So the answer is to deal with those laws in a way that gives the average consumer a break.
When you buy a toaster, if it explodes in your face there’s a law that says your toasters need to be safe. But when you get a credit card, or you get a mortgage, there’s no law on the books that says if that explodes in your face financially, somehow you’re going to be protected.
So this is — the need for getting back to some common sense regulations — there’s nothing wrong with innovation in the financial markets. We want people to be successful; we want people to be able to make a profit. Banks are critical to our economy and we want credit to flow again. But we just want to make sure that there’s enough regulatory common sense in place that ordinary Americans aren’t taken advantage of, and taxpayers, after the fact, aren’t taken advantage of. (Applause.)
Leno: Yes — because when I was a kid, we would — banks or credit cards would lend you money so you would pay it back. Now they lend you money so you can’t pay it back. (Laughter.) It’s like we were talking before, I mentioned we all saw A Wonderful Life — Mr. Potter, the meanest man — remember he owned the whole town? You know what he charged on a mortgage? Two percent. (Laughter.)
The President: He’s like Mother Teresa now. (Laughter.)
Leno: Like Mother