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Obama ‘angry as anybody’ over AIG bonuses

Says feds need power to take over troubled firms

Obama at the news conference

Obama at the news conference

WASHINGTON – President Obama called Tuesday for giving the government power to take over troubled financial institutions that are not banks – a category including insurance giant American International Group and its contentious bonuses.

Obama said during a news conference that he is “as angry as anybody” about the $165 million in bonuses for the federal bailout recipient. He told bankers and Wall Street executives that “enriching themselves on the taxpayers’ dime is inexcusable.”

“At the same time,” he said, “the rest of us can’t afford to demonize every investor or entrepreneur who seeks to make a profit.”

In the second prime-time news conference of his presidency, Obama also defended his economic proposals, including a $3.6 trillion budget plan with record-setting deficits.

Earlier in the day, Obama also told reporters that in the next few days he will unveil a “comprehensive” new strategy for the war in Afghanistan, including new diplomatic initiatives as well as military operations.

The news conference came after Obama’s roughest week so far in the White House because of the outcry over the AIG bonuses. The government has made up to $182.5 billion in assistance available to the company.

Obama again defended Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who had come under fire last week from Florida Rep. Connie Mack and other Republicans over the AIG bonuses. New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, said this week that AIG employees have returned bonuses totaling about $50 million.

The president opened the news conference with a pitch for his economic plans.

Obama also:

• Touted his administration’s plan for more surveillance equipment and federal agents along the U.S.-Mexican border to fight increasing drug violence. Obama also said the U.S. should work to ensure “illegal guns and cash” don’t flow back across the border to aid Mexican drug cartels. He declined to say whether he would back sending National Guard troops.

• Said his status as the nation’s first African-American president has not influenced any of his decisions in the White House.

• Opposed the idea of a new global currency, as floated by China.

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