"I can't say that there won't be more financial institutions that have problems here," Paulson said on "Fox News Sunday." "The concern I have is for the American people and the economy...We're not doing this to protect our financial institutions in and of themselves."
In his appearance, Paulson reminded host Chris Wallace that the plan probably won't cost anywhere in the neighborhood of its $700 billion price tag because the government would recoup much of its initial investment through the eventual sale of these assets.
"This is not a spending program," Paulson said. "It would be extraordinary circumstances, highly unlikely, that the cost would be anything like the amount we spend for the assets."
But Paulson had a sober message for fretful taxpayers: "There are no guarantees, and the taxpayer is at risk."
The Treasury secretary reminded congressional leaders to keep the legislation as clean as possible, so they can pass it quickly, with minimum partisan sniping. Speaking to that point later in the show, New York Sen. Chuck Schumer told Wallace that Democrats would like to couple the bailout plan with a second economic stimulus bill - but as a separate piece of legislation so not to crowd the bailout bill.
Addressing concerns that Treasury would use this money to assist wealthy investors, particularly hedge funds, Paulson repeatedly said that that was not the intent of this plan. But he did acknowledge an obvious truth: "There is no doubt that this plan is something that is going to increase the debt."
"I hate the fact that we have to do it," Paulson said, "but it's better than the alternative."