Obama pushes for financial regulation

President Barack Obama delivers a speech on financial regulation at Cooper Union college in New York City.

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KAI RYSSDAL: President Obama went straight at 'em today. He took a trip to New York City to talk financial reform. The audience at Cooper Union in Manhattan this morning had more than its fair share of bankers in it. Still, the president didn't mince too many words.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Our markets are only free when there are basic safeguards that prevent abuse, that check excesses, that ensure that it is more profitable to play by the rules than to game the system.

The president is making one last push as the Senate prepares to vote on its overhaul package next week. Marketplace's Jeremy Hobson was at the speech today. He says momentum does appear to be on the president's side.


Jeremy Hobson: Those of us inside the auditorium couldn't help but notice Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein sitting just a few yards from President Obama. The fraud charges against Goldman last week are credited with giving an extra push for the financial regulation package that had been languishing in the Senate. As the president spoke of the need for an agency to protect consumers, he pointed in Blankfein's direction and said this.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: And unless your business model depends on bilking people, there's little to fear from these new rules.

It was unclear if the president realized where he had pointed his finger, but a stone-faced Blankfein sure did.

Outside the auditorium, even those who didn't watch the speech knew about the charges against Goldman. Reesa Glassman says she supports the president's call for greater control of Wall Street.

REESA GLASSMAN: They had too much freedom and didn't police themselves and the laws that they had obviously weren't working or we wouldn't have been in the straights that we've been in.

It's opinions like that -- from ordinary Americans -- that are giving the president the momentum he needs to pass financial reform.

KEVIN HASSETT: It's looking pretty clear to me now that the bill will pass relatively quickly.

That's Kevin Hassett. He's the director of Economic Policy Studies at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think-tank.

HASSETT: The financial firms are so unpopular with Americans and with politicians that it's just very, very hard to stand up and fight a bill, even if the bill itself has a lot of policy errors in it.

It was just over two years ago that then Senator Obama spoke of the need for Wall Street reform here at Cooper Union. And the president seems to think it may be no more than two weeks or so before we know if today's address was history in the making or just another speech.

With the president at Cooper Union in New York, I'm Jeremy Hobson for Marketplace.

About the author

Jeremy Hobson is host of Marketplace Morning Report, where he looks at business news from a global perspective to prepare listeners for the day ahead.

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