Obama Stops by ‘Tonight Show’ During California Visit

Teresa now. (Laughter.) He makes VISA look like ohhhh –

The President: Well, and part of what happened over the last 15, 20 years is that so much money was made in finance that about 40 percent, I think, of our overall growth, our overall economic growth was in the financial sector. Well, now what we’re finding out is a lot of that growth wasn’t real. It was paper money, paper profits on the books, but it could be easily wiped out.

And what we need is steady growth; we need young people, instead of — a smart kid coming out of school, instead of wanting to be an investment banker, we need them to decide they want to be an engineer, they want to be a scientist, they want to be a doctor or a teacher. And if we’re rewarding those kinds of things that actually contribute to making things and making people’s lives better, that’s going to put our economy on solid footing. We won’t have this kind of bubble-and-bust economy that we’ve gotten so caught up in for the last several years.

Leno: Now, Treasury Secretary Geithner, he seems to be taking a little bit of heat here. How is he holding up with this? He seems like a smart guy –

The President: He is a smart guy and he’s a calm and steady guy. I don’t think people fully appreciate the plate that was handed him. This guy has not just a banking crisis; he’s got the worst recession since the Great Depression, he’s got an auto industry on — that has been on the verge of collapse. We’ve got to figure out how to coordinate with other countries internationally. He’s got to deal with me; he’s got to deal with Congress. And he’s doing it with grace and good humor. And he understands that he’s on the hot seat, but I actually think that he is taking the right steps, and we’re going to have our economy back on the move.

Leno: Now, see, I love that it’s all his problem. (Laughter.)

The President: No, no, no –

Leno: — I mean, when he came in you probably said, hey, this is not a problem. Now, it’s, hey, you got this, you got that, hey, good luck. (Laughter.)

The President: No, no, but this is the point that I made, I think two days ago, when somebody asked, well, do you have confidence in Tim Geithner. I said, look, I’m the President, so ultimately all this stuff is my responsibility. If I’m not giving him the tools that he needs to make sure that we’re moving things forward, then people need to look at me.

On the AIG thing, all these contracts were written well before I took office, but ultimately I’m now the guy who’s responsible to fix it. And one of the things that I’m trying to break is a pattern in Washington where everybody is always looking for somebody else to blame. And I think Geithner is doing an outstanding job. I

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