PRESIDENT OBAMA HARSHLY CRITICIZES WALL STREET BONUSES

Published: January 29, 2009
 
WASHINGTONPresident Obama fired a warning shot at Wall Street on Thursday, branding bankers “shameful” for giving themselves $18.4 billion in bonuses as the economy was spinning out of control and the government was spending billions to bail out many of the nation’s most prominent financial firms.
 
 
January 30, 2009    

Pool photo by Ron Sachs

President Barack Obama speaks during a meeting with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner in the Oval Office on Thursday.

Speaking from the Oval Office with Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner by his side, Mr. Obama lashed out at the industry over a report, compiled by the New York State comptroller, Thomas P. DiNapoli, which found that over all, financial executives received the same level of bonuses as they had in 2004, when times were more flush.
 
It was a pointed and unusual flash of anger — if a premeditated one — from the president, and it suggested that he intended to use his platform to take a hard line against excesses in executive compensation.
 
“That is the height of irresponsibility,” Mr. Obama said angrily. “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,” Mr. Obama said, adding that “there will be time for them to make profits and there will be time for them to make bonuses. Now is not that time.”
 
News of the report, and Mr. Obama’s remarks, came a day after the president met privately at the White House with business leaders, including Richard D. Parsons, the new chairman of the board of Citigroup. This week, Citigroup, which received an infusion of taxpayer money last year, canceled its plans, at the administration’s urging, to buy a $50 million business jet.
 
Mr. Obama did not spare the company in his remarks on Thursday, although he did not mention Citi by name. “Secretary Geithner already had to pull back on one institution that had gone forward with a multimillion-dollar plane it purchased at the same time as they are receiving TARP money,” he said, using the acronym for the government’s $700 billion Troubled Assets Relief Program, intended to rescue shaky financial firms. “We shouldn’t have to do that, because they should know better.”
 
Mr. DiNapoli’s report was compiled based on the annual December-January bonus season, mostly through personal income tax collections. In an interview published on Thursday, he said it was unclear if banks had used taxpayer money for bonuses.
 
“The issue of transparency is a significant one,” Mr. DiNapoli said in the interview, “and there needs to be an accounting about whether there was any taxpayer money used to pay bonuses or to pay for corporate jets or dividends or anything else.”
 
Earlier Thursday, the White House press secretary, Robert Gibbs, said Mr. Obama had a one-word reaction to the report: “Outrageous.” He announced in advance that Mr. Obama would put forth his views in person, which he did at the end of a meeting with Mr. Geithner.
 
 
*****************************************************************************
 
President Obama harshly criticizes Wall Street for “outrageously” and “shamelessly” swining at the pig trough.
 
Can anyone have imagined President Bush upbraiding Wall Street, Bear-Stearns, Lehman Brothers, etc., for paying themselves excessive bonuses while their own companies bleed blood and flesh due to the CEO’s incompetent so-called business practices? Bonuses for inept, stupid, greedy mismanagement?
 
Nyaah.
 
I don’t think so.
 
Wouldn’t have happened.
 
That would have meant President Shrub had developed a conscious and a soul.
 
Now, let’s see President Obama put some real fangs into Wall Street’s ass.
 
Talk and harsh admonitions are cheap; actions really lay the cards on the table.

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