He started off talking about the AIG bonuses that have been dominating the news:
I know a lot of you are outraged about this. I’m outraged, too. It’s hard to understand that a company that is relying on extraordinary assistance from taxpayers to keep its doors open would be paying anyone lavish bonuses. It goes against our most basic sense of what is fair and what is right. It offends our values.
But these bonuses, outrageous as they are, are a symptom of a much larger problem. And that is the system and culture that made them possible – a culture where people made enormous sums for taking irresponsible risks that have now put the whole economy at risk. So we are going to do everything we can to deal with these specific bonuses. But what’s just as important is that we make sure we don’t find ourselves in this situation again, where taxpayers are on the hook for losses in bad times and all the wealth generated in good times goes to those at the very top.
That is the kind of ethic we’ve had for too long. That is the kind of approach that led us into this mess. And that is something we have to change if we’re truly going to turn our economy around and move this country forward.
He went on to talk about the Recovery Act, the budget, and the economy at large
You know what I’m talking about. I don’t need to tell you these are challenging times. I don’t need to tell you this because you’re living it every day. One out of every ten Californians is out of work. You’ve got one of the highest foreclosure rates in the nation. And budget cuts are threatening the jobs of thousands of teachers across this state. But here’s what I want you to know: we are not only going to make it through this crisis, we are going to come out on the other side a stronger and more prosperous nation. I can’t tell you how long it will take or what obstacles we will face along the way, but I can promise you this – there will be brighter days ahead.
We’re already seeing signs of progress. Because of the Recovery Act that your two outstanding senators, Senator Feinstein and Senator Boxer worked so hard to pass and that I signed into law the other week, a new hospital will be built at Camp Pendleton that will give our servicemen and women the care they deserve. Over in Inglewood, the police department is planning to expand its staff by thirty people. And Orange County is hoping to add a new lane on SR-91, creating about 2,000 jobs, and easing congestion in the process. These are just a few of the 396,000 jobs we will create or save in California – and the 3.5 million jobs we will create or save across America – over the next two years.
During the Q&A portion of the town hall he assured the people of Costa Mesa that their concerns about their educational system would be met with real investments in his budget. He expressed support for the idea that the banks and companies bilking people on credit cards should be put in check by a credit card holders’ bill of rights. He explained why he’s had to go against his own gut and everybody else’s to help prevent banks from failing even when it was due to their own irresponsibility because of the cascading financial disasters that would ensue without action. He closed on the auto industry, talking to one out-of-work auto worker about how the future will belong to the companies that master the next big advances in fuel efficiency.
It was the kind of conversation that’s hard to find inside Washington, look for more like this from the President and his Administration.