US President Barack Obama on Saturday defended a fee he had proposed imposing on the country's largest financial firms, saying his administration will not allow Wall Street to "take the money and run."

"Those who oppose this fee say the banks can't afford to pay back the American people without passing on the costs to their shareholders and customers," the president said in his weekly radio address.

"But that's hard to believe when there are reports that Wall Street is going to hand out more money in bonuses and compensation just this year than the cost of this fee over the next ten years," he continued.

"If the big financial firms can afford massive bonuses, they can afford to pay back the American people."

On Thursday, Obama proposed a new fee on risky assets of big financial institutions, saying it would help recoup the cost of a massive bailout of the sector than began in 2008.

The plan, which requires congressional approval, would raise 90 billion dollars over 10 years and could be kept for 12 years to offset the full 117 billion dollar shortfall now estimated for the so-called TARP program.

The fee will be assessed on the largest banks, excluding community banks and other TARP recipients such as automakers General Motors and Chrysler.

But the banking industry said the proposal was aimed at the "wrong parties" and could harm the economic recovery.

Obama said such reasoning was unacceptable to him and to the American people.

"We're not going to let Wall Street take the money and run,' he said. "We're going to pass this fee into law. And I'm going to continue to work with Congress on common-sense financial reforms to protect people and the economy from the kind of costly and painful crisis we've just been through."

This video was published to the Web by the White House on Saturday, Jan. 16, 2010.

With AFP