Obama takes bankers to White House woodshed
First, the nation's top bankers got a life-support infusion of billions of dollars in taxpayer funds. Then they promptly sat on the money, reluctant to lend to the small businesses that helped fund the banks' rescue -- thus delaying any bounce in job recovery. Finally, and this one really galls the White House, the bankers unleashed their lobbyists on Capitol Hill against a financial regulatory bill that would among other things curb their salaries.
"I did not run for office to be helping out a bunch of fat-cat bankers on Wall Street," Obama said on CBS' 60 Minutes last night. "What's really frustrating me right now is that you've got these same banks who benefited from taxpayer assistance who are fighting tooth and nail with their lobbyists up on Capitol Hill, fighting against financial regulatory control."
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So today, fresh from the '60 Minutes' interview, the president has invited a group of financiers to the White House where, according to his economics guru Lawrence Summers, Obama plans to "have a serious talk with the bankers." As Summers told ABC, "The country did incredible things for the banking industry...No major bank would be intact, in a position to pay bonuses, if that extraordinary support had not been provided. The bankers need to recognize that...they've got obligations to the country after all that's been done for them."
The all-CEO guest list for the president's tough-love talk: Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs, Ken Chenault of American Express, Richard Davis of US Bancorp, Jamie Dimon of JP Morgan Chase, Richard Fairbank of Capital One, Bob Kelly of Bank of New York Mellon, Ken Lewis of Bank of America, Ron Logue of State Street Bank, John Mack of Morgan Stanley, Dick Parsons of Citigroup, Jim Rohr of PNC and John Stump of Wells Fargo.
As usual, bankers will have the last word. As one wag pointed out, after all, they get to keep the money.
-- Johanna Neuman
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