President Obama speaks during a news conference in the East Room of the White… (Saul Loeb / AFP/Getty Images )
President Obama said Thursday that the Occupy Wall Street protests show a "broad-based frustration" among Americans about how the U.S. financial system works.
Speaking at an East Room news conference, Obama said he has monitored the movement, which has spread to dozens of cities nationwide.
"I think it expresses the frustrations the American people feel, that we had the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression, huge collateral damage all throughout the country ... and yet you're still seeing some of the same folks who acted irresponsibly trying to fight efforts to crack down on the abusive practices that got us into this in the first place," he said.
Obama said he used "a lot of political capital" to prevent a financial meltdown and ensure banks remained solvent after he took office. He also touted the financial reform legislation he and Democrats in Congress moved through in 2010.
He criticized Republican presidential candidates whose economic plans, he claimed, gut those reforms.
"Not only did the financial sector, with the Republican Party in Congress, fight us every step in the way. But now you've got these same folks arguing we should roll back all those reforms and go back to the way it was," Obama said. "That does not make sense to the American people. They are frustrated by it and they will continue to be frustrated by it until they get the sense that everyone is playing by the same rules."
Obama used the opportunity to call on Congress to support his nominee to lead the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, former Ohio Treasurer Richard Cordray. The Senate Banking Committee approved his nomination Thursday, but his confirmation by the full Senate is in doubt because of a possible Republican filibuster.