Remarks by the President to Small Business Owners, Community Lenders, and Members of Congress
President Barack Obama: Thank you very much. First of all, Marco, thank you for the wonderful introduction. I don’t know if people heard properly here, but this is a all-natural health food restaurant in Philly. (Laughter.) So I asked him what was the equivalent at his shop for a cheese steak. (Laughter.) And he described for me — what was it, a chicken –
Marco Lentini: It’s our Chicken Italiano. (Laughter.) It’s a chicken cutlet, spinach Florentine, sharp provolone, all on an Italian ciabatta bread. (Laughter.)
Obama: Right. So I wanted to know if there was Whiz on that. (Laughter.) And he said, no. (Laughter.)
Marco is an example of what small business is all about. And I think Cynthia is an example of what community banks are doing all across the country, partnering with small businesses in order to create jobs and opportunity and entrepreneurship that’s been the driving force in our economy for so very long.
So I thank all of you, particularly the small businesses and community bankers who are here today. And I thank the two of you, as well as some of the other entrepreneurs that we met, and bankers that we met, before this public event. Thank you for sharing your stories.
I also want to thank the Chair and Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, Senators Mary Landrieu and Olympia Snowe. Please give them a big round of applause. (Applause.) As well as the Chair and Ranking Member of the House Committee on Small Business, Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez and Congressman Sam Graves, who are here as well. (Applause.) I want to thank them publicly for being here, but also so much of the good work that our proposals today are building on has to do with the vigilance that they’ve shown on their committees. So we very much appreciate that.
Now before I talk about the new steps we’re taking to get credit flowing to small businesses across our country, I do want to comment on the news about executive bonuses at AIG. I think some of you have heard a little bit about this over the last few days. This is a corporation that finds itself in financial distress due to recklessness and greed. Under these circumstances, it’s hard to understand how derivative traders at AIG warranted any bonuses, much less $165 million in extra pay. I mean, how do they justify this outrage to the taxpayers who are keeping the company afloat?
In the last six months, AIG has received substantial sums from the U.S. Treasury. And I’ve asked Secretary Geithner to use that leverage and pursue every single legal avenue to block these bonuses and make the American taxpayers whole. (Applause.) I want everybody to be clear that Secretary Geithner has been on the case. He’s working to resolve this matter with the new CEO, Edward Liddy — who, by the way, everybody needs to understand came on