The announcement that Goldman-Sachs may be able to pay back its bailout loan, sooner rather than later, was met with a grim assessment by NBC's Matt Lauer, on Tuesday's "Today" show as the co-anchor fretted to the Obama administration's Christina Romer: "I'm worried if you think if that's a good thing. Are they doing this because of financial stability or might they be talking about that, simply to get out from under the thumb of the federal government and be allowed to go back to running the business the way they want to run it as opposed to the way the government wants them to run it?"
Lauer invited on Romer, the chair of Obama's Council of Economic Advisers to preview the President's speech on the economy and pressed her about companies going back to "business as usual" but Romer assured Lauer that, "We are going to be working on financial regulatory reform."
The following is a complete transcript of the interview as it was aired on the April 14, "Today" show:
MATT LAUER: Christina Romer is chair of President Obama's Council of Economic Advisers. Dr. Romer, it's nice to see you. Good morning.
CHRISTINA ROMER: Good morning.
LAUER: When the President gives his economic speech today, he's gonna be able to point to some things that are going well and he's also gonna be able to talk about some things that are still deeply troubling. So is the view in the administration right now, that when it comes to the economy the glass is half empty or half full?
ROMER: I think we are being very pragmatic. We're being very reasonable. We know that the economy is still in a lot of trouble. You couldn't look at that job report from last week and not know that, that is the case. But what the President has said and what we certainly all believe, there are his glimmers of hope or his shoots of green, whatever metaphor you want to use, small little signs that, that maybe some parts of the economy are stabilizing.
LAUER: I guess what's puzzling Dr. Romer to me, and maybe this goes to this, this idea that, you know, if it sounds to good to be true it is, but for the past six months or so we've had economic experts parade through this show and do interviews and almost all of them said this was gonna be a long and deep recession, perhaps lasting all through 2009 even into 2010. So if we compare that to these glimmers of hope already it makes me worried that we're getting ahead of ourselves.
ROMER: Well I think you want to understand what a glimmer of hope means. I mean as I said, we know the economy is still sick, we know we've got several more months job loss, for example. We know that the, the numbers on the GDP are almost surely gonna be very bad for this quarter and next. So we certainly don't want to lead people to think that, you know, spring is, is right here for the economy. It's more giving them a sense that we are seeing signs that the programs are working, that we're seeing a sense of some parts of the economy are starting to, to find their bottom, and that's a useful thing for the American people to know.
LAUER: Let, let me ask you about this report on Monday from Goldman Sachs. They, they beat investors' expectations, reported a profit for the first three months of this year of $1.66 billion. And some people at Goldman are starting to talk about the possibility of paying off the bailout money ahead of schedule and I'm worried if you think if that's a good thing. Are they doing this because of financial stability or might they be talking about that, simply to get out from under the thumb of the federal government and be allowed to go back to running the business the way they want to run it as opposed to the way the government wants them to run it?
ROMER: Well, the important thing of course is any time an American company earns profits, that's a good thing. In terms of firms paying off their money from the government, the TARP money that they took, that's gonna be something that, that the regulators and the Treasury will be working with, with each bank to figure out if it is exactly a sign that they're very healthy. But we certainly are going to be looking at that on a case-by-case basis. The important thing is-
LAUER: But are you worried about, are you worried about companies like this, banking companies in particular, going back to business as usual?
ROMER: No, because one of the things that the President will talk about in his speech is how we are going to be working on financial regulatory reform to make sure that we can't just go back to business as usual, to make sure that we go back to a stronger, more secure economy.
LAUER: Alright Christina Romer. Doctor it's nice to see you this morning, thanks, excuse me, thank you for your time.
ROMER: Nice to see you.