Today the President spoke in the East Room of the White House, bearing good news for the taxpayer. The President’s intention was to discuss all of the progress already underway on the fiscal responsibility front, from ending the kind of wasteful no-bid contracting we have all come to know, to cutting unnecessary programs, to eliminating subsidies lavished on health insurance companies through Medicare.
At the top of the list was codifying the PAYGO principle, stating that government cannot spend an additional dollar without saving it somewhere else, into law. As the President often notes -- and noted again today -- it is a principle that families are forced to live by and one that helped balance the government’s books for years before it was abandoned.
But as it happened, there was even more good news before he discussed those issues:
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you all for joining us here in the White House. Before I begin, I want to comment briefly on the announcement by the Treasury Department with regard to the financial stability plan.
As you know, through this plan and its predecessor, taxpayer dollars were used to stabilize the financial system at a time of extraordinary stress. And these funds were also meant to be an investment -- and they were meant to be temporary. And that's why this morning's announcement is important.
Several financial institutions are set to pay back $68 billion to taxpayers. And while we know that we will not escape the worst financial crisis in decades without some losses to taxpayers, it's worth noting that in the first round of repayments from these companies the government has actually turned a profit.
This is not a sign that our troubles are over -- far from it. The financial crisis this administration inherited is still creating painful challenges for businesses and families alike. And I think everybody sees it in their own individual districts. But it is a positive sign. We're seeing an initial return on a few of these investments. We're restoring funds to the Treasury where they'll be available to safeguard against continuing risks to financial stability. And as this money is returned, we'll see our national debt lessened by $68 billion -- billions of dollars that this generation will not have to borrow and future generations will not have to repay.
I've said repeatedly that I have no interest in managing the banking system -- or, for that matter, running auto companies or other private institutions. So today's announcement is welcome news to me. But I also want to say the return of these funds does not provide forgiveness for past excesses or permission for future misdeeds. It's critical that as our country emerges from this period of crisis, that we learn its lessons; that those who seek reward do not take reckless risk; that short-term gains are not pursued without regard for long-term consequences.
(President Barack Obama delivers remarks on the new tax or entitlement policies for the pay-as-you-go plan Tuesday, June 9, 2009, in the East Room of the White House. Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)