The banks are profiting once again and Meredith Vieira is livid about it. During her July 21 interview with President Obama, Vieira questioned Obama about the banks having the audacity to do what taxpayers bailed them out to do: profit.
“You know I wanted to ask you about Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan reporting these big profits in the second quarter,” Vieira told Obama as they walked through the White House. “And they're talking about bonuses for their employees. People hear that, taxpayers, and they're very frustrated.”
One has to wonder though if it is the taxpayer’s frustration she was expressing, or rather the frustration of the hosts of “Today,” since this anger at banks has become a common theme on the show.
After Obama claimed, “taxpayers, I think, had to intervene to prevent something even worse from happening. And in fairness, these companies have paid the money back, a couple of them,” Vieira pressed him and asked, “But have they learned a lesson?”
Obama’s response was to place more blame on Wall Street: “That's the point. That's the point, is what you haven't seen, I think, is a change in culture, a certain humility, where they kind of step back and they say, ‘gosh, you know, we really messed things up. And so maybe we should be more focused on the products that we're providing consumers, let's make sure that we're operating in a more secure, safe fashion.’”
If Vieira found anything ironic about Obama calling for humility, she let it slide, along with an earlier claim that “a lot of the problems we have right now are attributed to misbehavior on Wall Street.” She never questioned Obama about a commonly accepted theory that government regulation helped create the economic crisis, not solve it.
She was too busy still fuming at the banks’ nerve to profit, and to put that profit to use in their own company. “Should taxpayers get a cut of those bonuses?” she asked Obama, while she claimed, “The reason they are getting that money is because taxpayers bailed them out.” She overlooked the fact that many of the banks were arm-twisted into taking the money and that the bonuses are being used to retain talent, a necessity in these economic times.
Surprisingly, Obama tried to correct Vieira. He correctly stated, “Well, here's what is happening. Goldman pays back the United States with interest. So we've actually made, the tax payers have actually made money on the investments that were made to many of these banks, with interest. And that will actually go back to deficit reduction. That's the positive of this. The other positive of it is we want banks to be solvent. We want them stable. That's part of the sign that the economy is stabilized a little bit.”
Vieira still did not grasp the concept. “But they're not just stable,” she protested. “These people are doing really well [while there is ] 9.5 percent unemployment, people looking for jobs, homes being foreclosed on.”
This gave Obama the opportunity to push more government regulation: “Which is why it's going to be important, I think, for us to have the kind of financial regulatory reform. And part of what gets me really frustrated is when I hear that some of the banks are resisting the idea of a Consumer Finance Protection Agency, that we’ve put forward to make sure that banks can't take advantage of people with predatory loans on their mortgages, or credit cards that are jacked up to exorbitant rates. When I hear some of these banks say we don't need regulation, after what we've just gone through, I'm thinking, well, people have some selective memory there. And this is going to be a major battle on the hill, because a lot of these banks have a lot of influence.”
And those pesky profits. But the President has Vieira and her mainstream media colleagues, so the odds are with him.