Remarks of the President Upon Departure to California

anger in a constructive way. And the most important thing we can do right now is stabilize the financial system, get flowing — credit flowing again to businesses and consumers, and make sure that we change how these businesses operate so that they don’t put us in a situation in which, when things go bad, the taxpayers have to foot the bill, and when things go good, folks are getting not just $6-million bonuses, but $30- or $40-million bonuses.

Now, keep in mind — I think it’s very important to remind ourselves that there are a whole bunch of folks now who are feigning outrage about these bonuses that a year ago, or two years ago, or three years ago, said, well, we should never meddle in these compensation plans; these are the best and the brightest; they know what they’re doing; that’s part of the market — and now, suddenly they’re outraged.

The point that I’ve been trying to make consistently has been that we believe in the free market, we believe in capitalism, we believe in people getting rich, but we believe in people getting rich based on performance and what they add in terms of value and the products and services that they create. And it’s appropriate for us to have some regulatory mechanisms in place to ensure that we never have a situation where the government has to step in, or you’ve got taxpayers who are having to foot the bill for other people’s mistakes.

That requires some regulatory framework. And my hope is that one of the lessons we learn here is, is that putting smart regulations in place — oversight, transparency, accountability — those things are not anti-market, they’re pro-market. When, last year, Barney Frank and I worked to allow shareholders to at least cast a non-binding vote on compensation packages, there were some people who attacked us saying government has no business doing that. Well, look, all we’re trying to say is you’ve got to be accountable to somebody. And it’s that measure of accountability that I think is part of what has made America strong, and we have to get back to those kinds of values.

All right? I’m going to make this — two more questions. Go ahead.

Q Mr. President, you received –

THE PRESIDENT: I’m sorry, I can’t hear you.

Q — you received $100,000 from AIG during the campaign. How do you feel about those contributions today? Do you plan to do anything about it? And at least one member of Congress has now called for your Secretary of the Treasury to resign. Your thoughts.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I have complete confidence in Tim Geithner and my entire economic team. Understand, as I said before, Tim Geithner didn’t draft these contracts with AIG. There has never been a Secretary of the Treasury, except maybe Alexander Hamilton, right after the Revolutionary War, who’s had to deal with the multiplicity of issues that Secretary Geithner is having to deal with — all at the same time.

And he is doing so with intelligence and diligence. Nobody

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