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Opening Bell: 03.20.09

Full interview
Q Well, here's something that kind of scared me. Today they passed this thing that says we're going to tax 90 percent of these bonuses. And the part that scares me is, I mean, you're a good guy -- if the government decides they don't like a guy, all of a sudden, hey, we're going to tax you and then, boom, and it passes. I mean, that seems a little scary as a taxpayer, they can just decide -- you want to take a break and answer that when we come back? Okay, hold that answer.
THE PRESIDENT: I will. I've got a good answer, too. (Applause.)
* * * * *
Q Welcome back. We are talking with President Barack Obama.
Before the break I mentioned that they had just passed this new bill which will tax them 90 percent -- and I said it was frightening to me as an American that Congress, whoever, could decide, I don't like that group, let's pass a law and tax them at 90 percent.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, look, I understand Congress' frustrations, and they're responding to, I think, everybody's anger. But I think that the best way to handle this is to make sure that you've closed the door before the horse gets out of the barn. And what happened here was the money has already gone out and people are scrambling to try to find ways to get back at them.
The change I'd like to see in terms of tax policy is that we have a system, going back to where we were back in the 1990s, where you and I who are doing pretty well pay a little bit more to pay for health care, to pay for energy, to make sure that kids can go to college who aren't as fortunate as our -- as my kids might be. Those are the kinds of measured steps that we can take. But the important thing over the next several months is making sure that we don't lurch from thing to thing, but we try to make steady progress, build a foundation for long-term economic growth. That's what I think the American people expect. (Applause.)
Full transcript here.
Citi's CFO Shifts to New Role; Kelly to Succeed Him (WSJ)
"Citigroup said Chief Financial Officer Gary Crittenden will become chairman of the entity created for non-core assets, with global banking chief Edward Kelly succeeding him as CFO.
The change, the latest for the struggling financial-services company, come as Citigroup looks at shedding those assets while focusing on its core investment bank, credit-card division and regional banking operations."
Chavez Nationalizes Banks, Inspired By American Example (FT)
After seeing the stunning success of Citi and BAC, Chavez has decided to move forward with his nationalization of Santander - we wish you luck, Mr. Chavez.
""We are not retreating. Today we have returned to the subject, I announce the nationalisation of Banco de Venezuela to strengthen the national public banking system," Mr Chávez said during a televised meeting with ministers.
Grupo Santander owns Banco de Venezuela, one of the largest banks in the Opec nation's financial system."
Oh Ye Of Little Faith: CNBC Calls Bottom (CNBC)
Clem, from ADVFN, has the feeling this could lead to a good rally - only time will tell, Clem, only time will tell.
Euro Falls Against Dollar (Bloomberg)
"The euro slid from near a two-month high against the U.S. currency after European Commission President Jose Barroso said leaders may agree today to boost the amount of cash for struggling countries to 50 billion euros ($68 billion) from 25 billion. The dollar rose as some traders bet the slump this week stoked by the Federal Reserve's announcement it start buying Treasuries was overdone given the outlook for the U.S. economy."
Raters See Windfall in Bailout Program (WSJ)
What's funny is people think giving the AIG people bonuses was bad, and this is passing (pretty much) under the radar.
"The new rescue effort, run by the Federal Reserve, kicked off Thursday with bond deals totaling more than $7 billion. Each bond issue will need to be blessed by at least two of the three big rating firms: Moody's Investors Service, Standard & Poor's Ratings Services and Fitch Ratings.
Rating services typically charge $40,000 to $120,000 for every $100 million in so-called structured-finance securities they rate. For the initial $200 billion portion of TALF, that translates to $80 million to $240 million. If the program is extended to $1 trillion as the government plans, those fees could skyrocket to anywhere between $400 million and $1.2 billion."

Plan To Let Judges Alter Loans Stalls (WSJ)
"Opposition from the banking industry and moderate senators of both parties has stalled a proposal to let judges modify mortgage terms in bankruptcy court."