CNBC host Maria Bartiromo and former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson were momentarily stunned on Sunday when former Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) asked them why the "poor beleaguered bankers" could afford to pay themselves excessively high salaries but could not find a way to pay their debts without a government bailout.
During an NBC Meet the Press segment to mark the five year anniversary of the 2008 economic collapse, Frank explained that new regulations meant that banks could not become "too big too fail" because they would not receive government help if they were overly indebted.
NBC host David Gregory observed that only 14 percent of Americans had a positive view of Wall Street firms, and that growing income inequality meant that the banks may have come out on top.
"We need to get beyond the conversation of 'Is Wall Street evil? Are the bankers evil and causing pain?'" Bartiromo insisted. "And toward the conversation of how do you create sustainable economic growth. That will answer the issue of inequality. Because with growth, come jobs."
"I couldn't agree more," Paulson said. "I mean, to me, that's what it's all about is sustainable economic growth."
Frank interrupted with a simple question: "I do want to add one thing to your point about those poor, beleaguered bankers, who have been forced to do so much that they can't lend money. If they really are running businesses that are so stressed that they can't do their basic work, why are they paying themselves so much money?"
"Where did these enormous salaries come from if they were, in fact, such serious trouble," he asked.
That query was met with several seconds of awkward silence as members of the panel looked at each other nervously.
Finally, Gregory and Bartiromo broke the silence with forced laughter.
"Thank you for giving me that one," Bartiromo quipped.
With that, Gregory quickly pivoted to how Washington could help to "get beyond some of the resentment of the bankers."
Watch the video below from NBC's Meet the Press, broadcast Sept. 15, 2013.
(h/t: Video Cafe)