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President Obama Calls for Bank 'Responsibility Fee'

US President Barack Obama delivers the weekly address, 16 Jan 2010

U.S. President Barack Obama is using his weekly address to once again call on the country's top banks to take responsibility for their role in the global financial crisis and repay the financial industry bailout in full.

The president this week proposed a "financial crisis responsibility fee" for about 50 of the country's largest banks and financial firms, including some that did not get government help during the crisis.

In his Saturday address, Mr. Obama said all banks benefitted from government programs to bailout the banking industry, including homeowners relief and emergency actions by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Federal Reserve.

The president said the proposal is not about punishing banks, its about preventing the abuse and excess that led to the near collapse of the U.S. financial system.

He said the plan would raise $90 billion over the next 10 years, and that it would remain in place until all of the bailout money has been paid back.

The United States set up a $700 billion program in late 2008, known as TARP, to assist financial firms in danger of collapsing because of the financial crisis. While many top U.S. banks have already repaid the government, officials say with the fee, the program could still lose $170 billion.

The president says it is unacceptable for American taxpayers to lose any money when many financial firms are now reporting "massive profits" and giving top executives, in his words, "obscene bonuses."

He said many of the firms would not have survived without government help.

The proposed fee is being included in President Obama's proposed budget and will have to be approved by lawmakers.