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Obama’s Cooper Union Speech

President Barack Obama will give a speech on financial regulatory reform this morning at New York’s Cooper Union college, located one mile from Wall Street. He plans to demand that five elements make it into the final bill:

  • Protect taxpayers from too-big-to-fail firms
  • Impose the Volcker rule, named for former Fed Chair Paul Volcker, which stops firms from making large bets with their own money, or “proprietary trading”
  • Make derivatives trades transparent
  • Create a consumer protection agency
  • Institute pay reforms to give investors a say over executive pay

Here are three excerpts from the speech, released to the press this morning:

One of the most significant contributors to this recession was a financial crisis as dire as any we’ve known in generations. And that crisis was born of a failure of responsibility — from Wall Street to Washington — that brought down many of the world’s largest financial firms and nearly dragged our economy into a second Great Depression. It was that failure of responsibility that I spoke about when I came to New York more than two years ago — before the worst of the crisis had unfolded. I take no satisfaction in noting that my comments have largely been borne out by the events that followed. But I repeat what I said then because it is essential that we learn the lessons of this crisis, so we don’t doom ourselves to repeat it. And make no mistake, that is exactly what will happen if we allow this moment to pass — an outcome that is unacceptable to me and to the American people.

As I said two years ago on this stage, I believe in the power of the free market. I believe in a strong financial sector that helps people to raise capital and get loans and invest their savings. But a free market was never meant to be a free license to take whatever you can get, however you can get it. That is what happened too often in the years leading up to the crisis. Some on Wall Street forgot that behind every dollar traded or leveraged, there is family looking to buy a house, pay for an education, open a business, or save for retirement. What happens here has real consequences across our country.

A comprehensive plan to achieve these reforms has passed the House of Representatives. A Senate version is currently being debated, drawing on the ideas of Democrats and Republicans. Both bills represent significant improvement on the flawed rules we have in place today, despite the furious efforts of industry lobbyists to shape them to their special interests. I am sure that many of those lobbyists work for some of you. But I am here today because I want to urge you to join us, instead of fighting us in this effort. I am here because I believe that these reforms are, in the end, not only in the best interest of our country, but in the best interest of our financial sector. And I am here to explain what reform will look like, and why it matters.

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