President George W. Bush expressed remorse that the global financial crisis has cost jobs and harmed retirement accounts and said he’ll back more government intervention if needed to ease the recession.
“I’m sorry it’s happening, of course,” Bush said in a wide-ranging interview with ABC’s “World News,” which was airing Monday. “Obviously I don’t like the idea of people losing jobs, or being worried about their 401(k)s. On the other hand, the American people got to know that we will safeguard the system. I mean, we’re in. And if we need to be in more, we will.”
The U.S. economy fell into a recession in December 2007, the National Bureau of Economic Research reported on Monday. Many economists believe the current downturn will last until the middle of 2009 and will be the most severe slump since the 1981-82 recession.
Bush said he felt responsible for the economic downturn because it’s occurring on his watch, but he added: “I think when the history of this period is written, people will realize a lot of the decisions that were made on Wall Street took place over a decade or so” before he became president.
He said he would like to see “instant liquidity” in the markets given the extent of the financial rescue plan, yet he understands that fear has paralyzed the markets.
“It is hard for the average citizen to understand how frozen the system became and how over-leveraged the system became,” Bush said. “And so what we’re watching is the de-leveraging of our financial markets, which is obviously affecting the growth of the economy.”
Last week, the Bush administration and the Federal Reserve pledged $800 billion to break through blockades on credit cards, auto loans, mortgages and other borrowing. The latest moves raised U.S. commitments to contain the financial crisis to nearly $7 trillion _ though no one thinks the government will actually spend that much.
The figures include loans that are expected to be repaid, loan authorities to back mortgages, purchases of stock in banks, guarantees to support loans among banks and pledges backing other transactions.
“This economy will recover,” Bush said in the interview conducted last Wednesday at the Camp David, Md., presidential retreat. “And when it recovers, many of the assets backed by the government now will be redeemed, and we will _ could conceivably _ make money off of some of the holdings.”
Later in the interview, he said: “I can’t guarantee that we’ll get all our money back, but it’s conceivable we could.”