Obama asks Wall Street for help on financial reforms 

Saying his financial reform package would avert future bailouts, President Obama shot back at Republicans claiming he would create a permanent bailout culture.

"That may make for a good sound bite, but it's not factually accurate," Obama said in a speech in New York City. "A vote for reform is a vote to put a stop to taxpayer-funded bailouts. That's the truth."

Before an audience that included Wall Street bankers, chief executive officers and elected officials, Obama defended his economic policies but asked for more cooperation from the industry.

"Ultimately there is no dividing line between Main Street and Wall Street; we rise or we fall together as one nation," Obama said. "So I urge you to join me."

House Republicans, meanwhile, continued to signal their opposition to Obama's financial reform strategy, reiterating the bailout claim and adding a new critique to the mix.

"How you can attempt to fix it without going to the root of the problem, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, is really beyond me," said House Republican Leader John Boehner of Ohio.

The mortgage finance giants have so far received more than $120 billion in government bailouts, and the Treasury Department is working -- some say too slowly -- on a remodeling plan for both.

The timing of Obama's speech coincides with progress by bipartisan Senate negotiators in forging a deal on financial overhaul.

Officials from both parties are finding significant traction from castigating the bankers whom many voters blame for the risky practices that led to the nation's economic meltdown.

That dynamic has helped Obama win bipartisan cooperation in the Senate for the bill, because neither side wants to be portrayed as protecting the banking industry -- although the industry is a major contributor to both parties, and especially to Democrats.

The president said he wants better consumer protection and more regulation of trading practices on Wall Street.

"The only people who ought to fear the kind of oversight and transparency that we're proposing are those whose conduct will fail this scrutiny," he said.

Even with some progress in the economy, deficits remain a persistent problem for Obama. One idea Obama is reportedly considering is a value-added tax, which taxes goods at each stage of production.

The president told CNBC that such a tax "has worked for some other countries," notably Europe, and declined to rule it out as an option.

"Before, you know, I start saying, 'This makes sense or that makes sense,' I want to get a better picture of what our options are," Obama said.

But conflicting statements from other administration officials underscored how touchy a new tax proposal would be for Obama in an election year. While instituting the tax would immediately generate revenue, it would also produce a ferocious push-back from Republicans.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner told MSNBC that "the president does not support a VAT." On ABC News, Vice President Biden said Obama is "open to listening."

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs later chimed in with, "Just to be clear, no VAT tax."

jmason@washingtonexaminer.com

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