HARWOOD: You mentioned calm. Wall Street's been pretty calm about this. The reaction I would say, generally speaking, has been, "Washington fighting, Washington posturing, yaddah, yaddah, yaddah." Is that the right way for them to look at it?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: No, I think this time's different. I think they should be concerned. And— I had a chance to speak to— some of the financial industry who came down for their typical trip. And I told them that— it is— not unusual for Democrats and Republicans to disagree. That's the way the founders designed our government. Democracy's messy.
But when you have a situation in which— a faction is willing potentially to default on— U.S. government obligations— then we are in trouble. And if they're willing to do it— now, they'll be willing to do it later. One thing that I often hear— is, "Well, Mr. President— even if they're being unreasonable, why can't you just go ahead and— do something that makes them happy now?" And I have to remind people—
HARWOOD: Or the constitutional option.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Right, well, what I have to remind people is that— what we're debating right now is keeping the government open for two months. We would then be going through this exact same thing in the middle of Christmas shopping season. Which I don't think many businesses would be interested in. We saw what happened in 2011.
And then we'd have to go through it again six months from now and six months after that. And one thing that I know the American people are tired of, and I have to assume the vast majority of businesses are tired of, is this constant governing from crisis to crisis. So in that sense, do we need to break that fever? Absolutely. We have to stop doing that.
Let's get a budget that allows people to plan over the long term, that allows us to deal with our fiscal problems in a sensible, reasonable way, even on an issue like healthcare. You know, if they want to give me specific suggestions around how we can improve delivery of health insurance to people who need it and people with pre-existing conditions, I'm happy to talk to them about it. But I'm not going to do it subject to the threat that somehow America defaults on its obligations.
HARWOOD: Four years ago, at the beginning of your presidency, the U.S. government bailed out Wall Street firms whose— issues— had caused big problems for the country. Is this now an opportunity for you to ask Wall Street— bankers to help save Washington from its misbehavior and put pressure on Congress?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well— again, John, I have to— say this is not a problem of Congress per se. This is a problem with a particular faction in the Republican party. Democrats are acting responsibly at this point. It doesn't mean that there haven't been times in the past where Democrats didn't have unreasonable demands or there weren't— wasn't the usual back and forth.
HARWOOD: Can these Wall Street guys influence those people?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well— the— you know, I think Wall Street can have an influence, CEOs around the country can have an influence. I think it is important for them to recognize that— this is going to have a profound impact on our economy and their bottom lines, their employees, and their shareholders. Unless we start seeing a different attitude— on the part of— that faction in Congress.
HARWOOD: Any awkwardness around having (JPMorgan Chase CEO) Jamie Dimon in— and asking him to help with that effort at the same time he's been in discussions with your attorney general about his bank's legal issues?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, keep in mind, this was the financial services group. I talked to the business roundtable a while back. I'm going to talk to any CEO— and any company— in America about why this is important. And you know— oftentimes, when you're outside of Washington, the default position, both for ordinary voters, for businesses, for the press, is to say, "Eh, you know, this is the usual squabbling. Both sides are acting like spoiled children."
This is not one of those situations. This is a situation in which— once we get back to a normal process of bargaining, it won't be pretty— people may not like every outcome. That's why we end up having elections. But at least we know that Head Start kids aren't getting thrown off the program because the government's shut down.
At least we can feel confident that small businesses are still getting their loans processed through the S.B.A. The Small Business Administration— provides $1 billion worth of loans every single month. Right now, that process is frozen. And that means there are small businesses all across this country right now who are being impacted unnecessarily simply because— we've got— a group of folks who think that they can hold— America hostage for ransom that— they can't win through an election.
HARWOOD: You told me as you were about to take office in 2009 that you were going to try to stay focused on the big picture, not watch the stock ticker at the bottom of our screen. You going to watch that ticker over the next couple of weeks to see what the market impacts are as we get closer and closer to October 17th?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: I tend not to make judgments on the base of the stock market. Obviously— since I came into office— the stock market has done very well. The biggest concern that I have day to day, though, is how is this impacting middle-class families.
Are we creating a system in which ordinary people who are working hard and acting responsibly have an opportunity to get ahead, have an opportunity to find a job that pays good wages, have a chance to— buy a house—that and have some retirement security, have healthcare that they can count on so they don't get bankrupt when they get sick, send their kids to college, allow them to succeed?
And so every day I'm tracking how is what's happening here in Washington having an impact on that. And what we can say unequivocally at the moment is that Washington is having a negative impact on the lives of ordinary people.
And that may manifest itself in terms of the stock market going down, but— I'm more concerned over the long term with whether or not this is a country where not only are we constantly thinking about how to grow this economy for ordinary Americans, but also do we have a government that despite the differences that exist— throughout— a very big nation— can come together and just do the basic common-sense stuff that's required. Congress has two jobs that the constitution's very clear about. Pass a budget, pay its bills.
HARWOOD: Couple things—
PRESIDENT OBAMA: And we're not asking— too much for
HARWOOD: Couple things very quickly—
PRESIDENT OBAMA: to ask them to do that job.