Obama’s Biting Rebuke of Wall Street

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Barack Obama has been starting his days in the Oval Office much later than his predecessor, a pattern that allows him to workout and read the papers before he sends his daughters off to school. This morning, during this routine, he got peeved by the New York Times. Not by the newspaper itself, but by a story in the middle of the front page headlined, “What Red Ink? Wall St. Paid Hefty Bonuses.”

The story reported that the New York State Comptroller estimated that $18.4 billion in bonuses had been paid out by financial companies in New York in 2008, at a time when most of the largest firms were wobbly or in free fall and begging money from the public trough. “Outrageous” is the word Obama used when he spoke with his staff in the morning about the article. By mid-afternoon, the president had a pool of reporters come to the Oval Office so he could elaborate. He minced no words:

“That is the height of irresponsibility. It is shameful,” he said about the payouts. “And part of what we’re going to need is for the folks on Wall Street who are asking for help to show some restraint, and show some discipline, and show some sense of responsibility.”

He was not done. “There will be time for them to make profits, and there will be time for them to get bonuses. Now is not that time,” he continued. “And that’s a message that I intend to send directly to them.”

These were, to put it mildly, strong words from a U.S. President, and a clear signal that he appears ready to use his bully pulpit, and his executive powers, in a way the previous occupant of the White House did not: He will publicly shame his own countrymen when they appear to abuse the public trust.

Watch the video here.