In the Arena

Malefactors of Great Wealth

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The President of the United States, this afternoon, on Wall Street bonuses:

One point I want to make is that all of us are going to have responsibilities to get this economy moving again.  And when I saw an article today indicating that Wall Street bankers had given themselves $20 billion worth of bonuses — the same amount of bonuses as they gave themselves in 2004 — at a time when most of these institutions were teetering on collapse and they are asking for taxpayers to help sustain them, and when taxpayers find themselves in the difficult position that if they don’t provide help that the entire system could come down on top of our heads — that is the height of irresponsibility.  It is shameful.
And part of what we’re going to need is for folks on Wall Street who are asking for help to show some restraint and show some discipline and show some sense of responsibility.  The American people understand that we’ve got a big hole that we’ve got to dig ourselves out of — but they don’t like the idea that people are digging a bigger hole even as they’re being asked to fill it up.
And so we’re going to be having conversations as this process moves forward directly with these folks on Wall Street to underscore that they have to start acting in a more responsible fashion if we are to together get this economy rolling again.  There will be time for them to make profits, and there will be time for them to get bonuses — now is not that time.  And that’s a message that I intend to send directly to them, I expect Secretary Geithner to send to them — and Secretary Geithner already had to pull back one institution that had gone forward with a multimillion dollar jet plane purchase at the same time as they’re receiving TARP money.  We shouldn’t have to do that because they should know better.  And we will continue to send that message loud and clear.

  You go, guy.

Update: The perils of journalism. One of the sentences I wrote in the print column that was published today is no longer operative:

He could have planted solar panels and a wind turbine on the White House roof or blasted the Bush Administration as he signed an Executive Order banning torture or lacerated the bankers who got us into the economic mess. But that’s not his style, apparently.

Well, it sure was his style today and I’m happy to have been wrong about that one.