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Transcript: Geithner's Opening Statement

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009; 12:29 PM

TREASURY SECRETARY APPOINTEE TIMOTHY GEITHNER: Chairman Baucus, Ranking Member Grassley, and members of the committee, it is a great honor for me to stand before -- to sit before you today.

I want to thank you for meeting with me over these last few weeks and for giving me a chance to hear your interests and your concerns.

I am deeply grateful to the president for asking me to lead the Treasury Department of the United States at this critical moment in our nation's history.

And I am particularly grateful to my wife, to my family for all their support and for their sacrifice.

I want to thank Senator Schumer and Paul Volcker for their kind words this morning. I'm very grateful to you -- to you both for sitting -- sitting with me -- with me here today.

Throughout my career, I have had the great privilege of serving our country in institutions responsible for U.S. economic policy. In these roles, I have learned some very important lessons about government and about economic policy.

I believe that confidence in the strength and integrity of our financial system, confidence in our commitment to fiscal prudence, and confidence in the value of our currency are absolutely critical to the fortunes of all Americans. I believe that markets are central to innovation and to growth, but that markets alone cannot solve all problems. Well-designed, strongly enforced financial regulations are absolutely essential to protecting the integrity of our economy.

I also believe that as America's economic fortunes become ever more closely tied to those of the rest of the world that we need to invest more at home in helping Americans deal with the challenges of trade and technological change. And finally, I believe that our national security depends critically on our economic strength. We can have a great and positive impact on the global economy, but only if the quality of our ideas and our actions win the support of other nations.

We now confront extraordinary challenges: a severe recession here and around the world; a catastrophic loss of trust and confidence in our financial system; unprecedented foreclosure rates; small businesses struggling to stay afloat; millions of Americans worried about losing their jobs and their savings; a deep uncertainty about what tomorrow holds.

At the food bank where my wife and son volunteer, the lines are long and getting longer, and these things are happening across America.

Our test is to act with the strength, speed, and care necessary to get our economy back on track and to restore America's faith in our economic future. This will require action on four fronts.

First, we must act quickly to provide substantial support for economic recovery and to get credit flowing again. The history of financial crises is a history of failures by governments to act with the speed and force commensurate with the severity of the crisis. If our policy response is tentative and incrementalist, if we do not demonstrate by our actions a clear and consistent commitment to do what is necessary to solve the problem, then we risk greater damage to living standards, to the economy's productive potential, and to the fabric of our financial system.

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