WASHINGTON (CN) - President Obama on Thursday proposed a fee against the nation's largest financial firms in an effort to recover the nation's expenses in bailing them out during the economic downturn. "My commitment is to recover every single dime the American people are owed," Obama said at the White House, while also defending the initial necessity of the lending program.
"We want our money back, and we're going to get it," he said, reflecting the sentiment shared among many Americans. He said that his decision to impose the fee was reinforced by his distaste for the "obscene bonuses at the very firms who owe their continued existence to the American people."
Obama is already required under the statute that instituted the Troubled Asset Relief Program to put forward a plan in 2013 to recoup the value of the loans it made. But under fire for the costly bailouts, he has instead submitted his plan three years early.
He continued to defend TARP, which was initiated under the Bush administration to lend money to shaky and failing financial institutions during the economic downturn. "Even though these firms were largely facing a crisis of their own making, their failure could have led to an even greater calamity for the country," he said. "It was a distasteful but necessary thing to do."
The fee is designed to assure the government is paid the lending program's outstanding $117 billion debt.
It will be applied over the course of at least 10 years on firms with over $50 billion in assets, ensuring that 60 percent of the fee's revenue comes from the 10 largest financial institutions.
Obama called on executives to pay the fee by cutting their bonuses instead of passing it to their customers or shareholders, and urged them not to try to evade or challenge the fee.
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