WASHINGTON: President-elect Barack Obama has chastised US auto executives for being "tone deaf" for flying on corporate jets to Washington to beg for bailout money, and said he believed bank executives should forgo their end-of-year bonuses.
In the advanced excerpt of an interview to be broadcast Wednesday and released by ABC News late Tuesday, the president elect focused on responsibility.
Bank executives forgoing bonuses is "an example of taking responsibility," Obama said.
"If you are already worth tens of millions of dollars, and you are having to lay off workers, the least you can do is say, 'I'm willing to make some sacrifice as well', because I recognize that there are people who are a lot less well off, who are going through some pretty tough times ," Obama told ABC News.
As for the incident in which the heads of Ford, Chrysler and General Motors flew their private jets to Washington last week to ask Congress for bailout money, Obama said: "I thought maybe they're a little tone deaf to what's happening in America right now."
He described it as "a chronic problem, not just for the auto industry ... (but) for the captains of industry generally.
"When people are pulling down hundred million dollar bonuses on Wall Street, and taking enormous risks with other people's money, that indicates a sense that you don't have any perspective on what's happening to ordinary Americans," Obama said.
And when the "auto makers are getting paid far more than their counterparts at Toyota, or at Honda, and yet they're losing money a lot faster than Japanese auto makers are, that tells me that they're not seeing what's going on out there."
Obama said he hoped his presidency will help "usher in ... a return to an ethic of responsibility. That if you're placed in a position of power, then you've got responsibilities to your workers. You've got a responsibility to your community. Your shareholders."
He added: "And that's true ... for members of Congress, that's true for the president, that's true for cabinet members, that's true for parents.
"I want all of us to start thinking a little bit more, not just about what's good for me, but let's start thinking about what's good for our children, what's good for our country. The more we do that, the better off we're going to be," he said.
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