U.S. President Barack Obama has joined a chorus of voices angrily denouncing a huge company that posted major losses, got billions of dollars in government aid - and then paid $165 million in bonuses to its executives.
Mr. Obama said the American International Group insurance company got in trouble because of "recklessness and greed." He said it is hard to justify this "outrage" to the taxpayers who are keeping the AIG company afloat, and vowed to take every legal means to block the bonus payments.
The president spoke Monday at the White House, where he was highlighting new help the government is offering to U.S. small businesses. Mr. Obama said this is the engine of new job creation.
His administration is outlining a program to make it easier for small businesses to borrow the money they need to expand and hire people. The program also will use the government's economic-stimulus money in ways intended to encourage banks to lend to small businesses.
New government reports on Monday said U.S. industrial production fell for the fourth month in a row in February, and other data show the amount of U.S. factory capacity in use has matched a record-low level.
Late Sunday, the head of the U.S. central bank said the recession will end this year if the government has the political will to get banks to lend more money.
In a television interview on CBS, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said he can see the recession ending this year, with a recovery starting in 2010.
But Bernanke also said there will be no recovery if financial markets are not stabilized and working normally. The biggest risk to recovery, in his view, is failing to act decisively enough to reassure credit markets.
Despite the severity of the current recession, Bernanke said the United States is not facing another great depression like the economic collapse of the 1930s.
Some information for this report was provided by AP.