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2.7%  Q1 GDP    4.57%  avg. 30-year mortgage     9.5%  Unemployment

Geithner: Unemployment Will 'Absolutely' Be Lower One Year From Today

UPDATED at 8:13 p.m.

Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, appearing in a town hall program that concluded moments ago on CNBC, said that "absolutely, absolutely," unemployment will be lower this time next year.

Responding to a poll showing 56 percent of Americans believe there's another financial meltdown in the future, Geithner said "another collapse is within our power to prevent" if the government sticks to its stimulus and recovery efforts underway.

The one-hour program began at 7 p.m. and was hosted by CNBC anchor Erin Burnett and economics reporter Steve Liesman. It was held in Washington at the Newseum.

Geithner Sidesteps Tax-Hike Question

7:58 p.m.: Geithner sidestepped a direct question about raising taxes on Americans.

Asked by Burnett: "Will taxes go up?", Geithner began, "I want to do it this way...I want to do it carefully..."

He went on to say (and The Ticker rewound The Ticker TiVo to get the wording right):

"Right now, if you're worried as most Americans should be about how we're going to afford these things in the future, how we're going to get back to living within their means, the most important thing now we can do is to get this economy back to where we're growing. Where firms are investing again, people are creating jobs again. And when we do that, the world needs to understand -- Americans need to understand -- we're going to bring our deficits down. And that means we're going to have to bring our commitments and resources into balance. And it's going to require we do difficult things. Again, I think most Americans understand, most udner and if we don't do that, we're going to face a risk of slower growth, higher unemployment, darker future. And that's not something we can afford to do."

"That sounded a little bit like a 'yes' to me," Liesman said.

"It sure did," Burnett said.

"You want me to repeat exactly how I said it?" Geithner asked, laughing.

Geithner: 'Very Confident' China Will Buy U.S. Debt

7:46 p.m.: Geithner said he is "very confident" China will continue to buy U.S. debt.

China is now the world's largest holder of U.S. debt.

Feisty Geithner Showing Pushback

7:36 p.m.: Geithner is showing a little more pushback against tough questioning than he has in the past, through numerous congressional hearings in recent months.

Geither was told by Liesman, that "you guys missed it two years ago..."

"That's not fair," Geithner interrupted. He drew a distinction between the Federal Reserve, the New York Fed -- which Geithner headed before becoming Treasury secretary -- and the Fed's board of governors and the rest of the government's financial oversight infrastructure.

"We were way ahead of any government around the world because we understood how bad this was," Geithner said. He pointed to the radical and swift lowering of interest rates to near-zero, which the Fed was criticized for.

"It is not fair to say that important parts of your country's government did not move with speed and force," Geithner said.

Geithner showed no patience with those -- specifically Republicans in Congress -- who opposed government bailouts and the $787 billion stimulus plan passed earlier this year.

"If you indulge the sentiment that you can solve a crisis by teaching people a lesson, you're going to make the crisis dramatically worse and you're going to make it much more expensive to solve," he said.

Burnett asked Geithner about all the former Goldman Sachs employees who work or worked for the government, including former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson. (Burnett is a Goldman alum herself.)

Geithner did not directly respond to Burnett's question, saying, "You want people with experience in these jobs," such as those at Treasury. He added that "you don't want to have a system where the institutions get to chose who they're regulated by."

It's unclear what Geithner meant by that. Did he mean that because a number of, say, former Goldman employees may work at Treasury, Goldman gets a regulatory advantage?

Geithner: 'We Were At The Edge Of the Abyss'

7:12 p.m.: Geithner said "we were at the edge of the abyss for the first time in nearly a century" this time last year, when the financial crisis was in full meltdown mode.

"The rivets were close to coming off the submarine," Geithner said. "We can never let that happen again."

"We just now have an economy that's starting to grow, for the first time in two years," Geithner said.

In a meeting with the president today, Geithner said he told Obama that it's going to be a "slow recovery." Slower than he expected.

Unemployment will stay "unacceptably high" for some time, Geithner said. The official unemployment rate is 9.7 percent and the White House and others believe it will crest at more than 10 percent -- and probably remain there for some time.

The first question from the audience came from a former employee of Lehman Brothers, which the government allowed to fail (the government said it did not have the authority to save it, which many dispute), asked: How would the world be different if Lehman did not collapse?

Geithner said Lehman was big enough to be "systemic" but did not cause the collapse.

-- Frank Ahrens
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By Frank Ahrens  |  September 10, 2009; 8:13 PM ET
Categories:  The Ticker  | Tags: CNBC, Erin Burnett, Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers, Steve Liesman, Tim Geithner  
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You don't always get paid. You always save the woman though.
I wouldn't trust these people to save a dime, let alone a job. Liars and financial criminals. The pay is real good.

Posted by: Dermitt | September 11, 2009 6:57 AM | Report abuse

What does that mean? "Unemployment will go down." Does it mean the numerical loss of jobs each month will slow or does it mean unemployment will no longer be at 10%? If he means either one, he's an effing liar. These jobs are not coming back and Main Street will remain broke.

Posted by: sharonsj1 | September 11, 2009 10:30 AM | Report abuse

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