Obama: Finish Wall Street reform

May 19, 2012 at 6:00 AM
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WASHINGTON, May 19 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama said Saturday Congress should fully implement his Wall Street reforms and blamed Republicans for trying to dismantle them.

"For the past three and a half years, we've been fighting our way back from a historic economic crisis -- one caused by breathtaking irresponsibility on the part of some on Wall Street who treated our financial system like a casino. Not only did that behavior nearly destroy the financial system -- it cost our economy millions of jobs, hurt middle-class families and left taxpayers holding the bag," Obama said in his weekly radio and Internet address.

"Since then, we've recovered taxpayer dollars that were used to stabilize troubled banks. And we've put in place Wall Street reform with smarter, tougher, commonsense rules that serve one primary purpose: to prevent a crisis like that from ever happening again. And yet, for the past two years, too many Republicans in Congress and an army of financial industry lobbyists have actually been waging an all-out battle to delay, defund and dismantle Wall Street reform.

"Recently, we've seen why we can't let that happen. We found out that a big mistake at one of our biggest banks resulted in a two billion dollar loss. While that bank can handle a loss of that size, other banks may not have been able to. And without Wall Street reform, we could have found ourselves with the taxpayers once again on the hook for Wall Street's mistakes," Obama said.

JP Morgan Chase said last week its Chief Investment Office, tasked with reducing risk, had lost $2 billion in a trade Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon called a "self-inflicted wound."

"We can't afford to go back to an era of weak regulation and little oversight; where excessive risk-taking on Wall Street and a lack of basic oversight in Washington nearly destroyed our economy," Obama said. "We can't afford to go back to that brand of 'you're-on-your-own' economics. Not after the American people have worked so hard to come back from this crisis.

"These new rules say that, if you're a big bank or financial institution, you now have to hold more cash on hand so that if you make a bad decision you pay for it, not the taxpayers.

"You have to write out a 'living will' that details how you'll be wound down if you do fail. …

"Unless you run a financial institution whose business model is built on cheating consumers, or making risky bets that could damage the whole economy, you have nothing to fear from Wall Street reform," the president said. "Yes, it discourages big banks and financial institutions from making risky bets with taxpayer-insured money. And it encourages them to do things that actually help the economy -- like extending loans to entrepreneurs with good ideas, to middle-class families who want to buy a home, to students who want to pursue higher education.

"That's what Wall Street reform is all about -- making this economy stronger for you. And we're going to keep working -- to recover every job lost to the recession; to build an economy where hard work and responsibility are once again rewarded; to restore an America where everyone has a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same rules."

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