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Obama urging Wall Street to do the right thing

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In his speech, Obama emphasizes that big banks should take it upon themselves to give back to the community after the tax payer has done so much to put them on them on the road to recovery. While I agree with the point in theory, I’m not sure Wall Street is built to think about the moral imperative of creating a better society when it’s primary goal is to make money.

Wall Street, and I use this term broadly, has already demonstrated that when it’s presented with a  choice, it chooses the money. While many bristle at the thought of more regulation, especially when it means it could undermine financial innovation – God forbid – one of the important take aways from the crisis should be there needs to be a counterweight to greed. The industry cannot regulate itself.

From the speech, which you can see in all its glory on Felix’s blog.

The fact is, many of the firms that are now returning to prosperity owe a debt to the American people. Though they were not the cause of the crisis, American taxpayers through their government took extraordinary action to stabilize the financial industry. They shouldered the burden of the bailout and they are still bearing the burden of the fallout – in lost jobs, lost homes and lost opportunities. It is neither right nor responsible after you’ve recovered with the help of your government to shirk your obligation to the goal of wider recovery, a more stable system, and a more broadly shared prosperity.

So I want to urge you to demonstrate that you take this obligation to heart. To put greater effort into helping families who need their mortgages modified under my administration’s homeownership plan. To help small business owners who desperately need loans and who are bearing the brunt of the decline in available credit. To help communities that would benefit from the financing you could provide, or the community development institutions you could support. To come up with creative approaches to improve financial education and to bring banking to those who live and work entirely outside the banking system. And, of course, to embrace serious financial reform, not fight it.

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