Obama aides: Wall Street shouldn't fight reform

In separate TV appearances, Emanuel and Axelrod say bailed-out firms should rethink bonuses and increase lending.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Wall Street needs to focus more on helping Main Street than self-enrichment, two of President Obama's top advisers said.

Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and Senior Adviser David Axelrod said Wall Street institutions that received taxpayer-funded bailouts should stop fighting proposed new financial regulations intended to prevent another near economic meltdown.

They also said firms should re-think paying large new bonuses now that fortunes have recovered, and Axelrod called for banks that got government help to increase lending to support economic growth.

The comments on Sunday talk shows came after JPMorgan Chase (JPM, Fortune 500) and Goldman Sachs (GS, Fortune 500) last week reported strong earnings and likely lucrative bonus payments within a year of receiving government help. Both organizations have repaid the government and no longer are governed by regulations linked to the taxpayer money.

Emanuel and Axelrod, without naming names, criticized beneficiaries of government help for now opposing reforms that would prevent a recurrence of the problem.

"Not only do they come for a bailout, but in this short period of time where they have a level of normalcy because of what the government did to help them, they're now back trying to fight consumer offices and the type of protections that will prevent another type of situation where the economy is taken over the cliff by the actions taken on Wall Street and the financial market," Emanuel said on CNN's "State of the Union."

Americans are frustrated because they struggle to make ends meet amid high unemployment, rising health care costs and other challenges, yet "Wall Street is back doing what Wall Street did," Emanuel said.

"They have a responsibility to be part of the solution, not part of being the obstacle," he said.

Axelrod, on ABC's "This Week," called potential bonuses totaling billions of dollars "offensive." However, he noted that some companies paid bonuses in stock rather than cash to make their value dependent on company performance.

"The most offensive thing is, we haven't seen the kind of increase in lending that we should," Axelrod said in reference to tight credit for consumers and small businesses that need capital for growth.

At the same time, he said, banks are spending "tens of millions of dollars lobbying the Congress to try and stop financial regulatory reform, to stop the kind of reforms that we need to prevent the disaster we just saw and to protect consumers."

Conceding that little regulatory control exists to change behavior now, Axelrod called for Wall Street firms to fulfill their responsibilities to society.

"They ought to meet those responsibilities, and they ought to express them by increasing lending, which is what we need right now, and by standing down and allowing the kinds of reforms we need to protect consumers and protect the country from the sort of disaster we've seen," he said.

He also noted a report last week that showed U.S. wages at their lowest in almost two decades, saying Americans have limited tolerance for huge Wall Street bonuses at such a time.

The American people "don't begrudge success, and we ought not to be in the business of micro-managing how companies compensate their people," Axelrod said, but he called on Wall Street firms to "do the things that they should to help this country." To top of page

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