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Tickers in this Article: C, JPM, WFC, FNM, AIG
In Charlotte, N.C., Barack Obama shared his thoughts on how government should act to stem the bleeding in the financial sector.

"Economic recovery requires that we act, not just to address the crisis on Wall Street, but also the crisis on Main Street and around kitchen tables across America," Obama said. " ... As of now, the Bush Administration has only offered a concept with a staggering price tag, not a plan. Even if the U.S. Treasury recovers some or most of its investment over time, this initial outlay of up to $700 billion is sobering," he added, later noting that "taxpayers shouldn't be spending a dime to reward CEOs on Wall Street."

That was on September 21, when Obama was still a presidential candidate and not the Commander-in-Chief of the United States. Today, it appears the "change" that Obama promised during the campaign has been delivered - provided one counts a change of mind.

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Time Stands Still
Not only does Obama's economic recovery plan carry a higher price tag ($787 billion) than Bush's, but it, too, has been criticized for being overly vague. In fact, on February 11, the Associated Press went so far as to blame the "lack of detail" surrounding the stimulus package for "major U.S. stock indexes tumbling about 4.5 percent". On the plus side, it's nice to see that the AP has finally determined what makes the markets tick; I look forward to future reports. On the other hand, it doesn't say much for public confidence in a legislative fix, does it?

But, hey, at least chief executives are no longer wasting bailout funds, right? Well, put it this way: It is true that, as Obama wished, taxpayers haven't spent a dime to reward CEOs on Wall Street. Sadly, they've spent many dimes - approximately 500 million of them just to pay for a new corporate jet for Citigroup (NYSE:C) and another 36 billion or so to finance corporate bonuses at Merrill Lynch. (To learn more about shady CEO practices, be sure to read Pages From The Bad CEO Playbook.)

Waste Not, Want Not
Of course, not all CEOs are being reckless with the public's money - or so they say. On February 11 Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan (NYSE:JPM), told a House panel "We stand ready to do our part going forward." This is welcome news, as it would appear that Dimon was not ready in 2007, when he spent 2.1 million dimes "to use company aircraft for personal trips", according to an AP report.

"We are frugal," Wells Fargo's (NYSE:WFC) CEO John Stumpf asserted at that same House hearing. "We're Americans first. We're bankers second." To prove Stumpf's point, perhaps, Wells Fargo recently canceled a junket to Las Vegas to honor its top mortgage bankers after receiving negative feedback from lawmakers and the press.

Expectations: How Low Can You Go?
Now, is any of this wastefulness Obama's fault? Of course not. But it wasn't Bush's fault either. The fact is companies like Wells Fargo, Citigroup, JPMorgan, IndyMac Bancorp, Fannie Mae (NYSE:FNM), American International Group (NYSE:AIG) and others got into the mess they're in now because they were fiscally irresponsible. Thus, it should come as no surprise that they continue to act accordingly.

What is surprising is that lawmakers still want to fund them.

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