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Treasury Sec. Timothy Geithner: On the Road to Recovery

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner CBS News

The National Bureau of Economic Research said Monday that the country's 18-month long recession ended in June 2009, but the Oracle of Omaha, Warren Buffett, has a different perspective.

"On any common sense definition, the average American is below where he was before or his family in terms of real income GDP," Buffett said Thursday during an interview with CNBC. "We're still in a recession. And we're not gonna be out of it for a while, but we will get out of it."

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner agrees with Buffett on the part that the country will recover from the recession sooner or later.

"I totally agree with him....We had a decade where the middle class saw no growth in income. And we saw a huge-- a devastating financial crisis that put more than eight million Americans out of work, forced businesses across the country to close," Geithner told CBS News anchor Katie Couric in an exclusive interview Thursday. "But we've now been growing for more than a year. We had private sector job growth start much earlier than it did in the last two recoveries.  And we have -- we are a very strong country, a very resilient country. And we're getting stronger now. And, again, if you look at what's happening in high tech and manufacturing and exports you can see a lot of reasons for confidence."

Geithner also agreed with Buffett that the average American is having a tough time. 

Timothy Geithner's Push for Tax Cuts

"...most people feel like it's still so difficult for them. And-- and they're right. It's not just unemployment's at 10 percent. But they're not back to where they were. You know, this was a terribly deep hole and we're coming out of it but we're not coming out if it fast enough to satisfy people. And that's why we're so impatient to work with Congress to do more," he said.

Couric asked Geithner when he thought the economy would turn around positively for the American people.  He said that the private sector has had eight months of job growth and that businesses are expanding investment at a "pretty healthy rate."

However, on Thursday, the Labor Department said that jobless claims rose by 12,000 to a seasonally adjusted 465,000, suggesting that the job market is not responding as quickly to various economic stimuli.  

Couric noted that many business are making due with fewer people. 

"They're not hiring fast enough to bring down the unemployment rate, and that's our major challenge. Our major challenge is to make sure that we work with Congress to do more to help businesses bring more Americans back to work more quickly," Geithner said.

On Thursday, the House joined the Senate in passing a bill that will provide a $30 billion loan fund and tax incentives aimed at stimulating hiring in small businesses.

"This country absolutely will get back to the point where most Americans who want a job are gonna be able to find a job," Geithner told Couric. "It's just gonna take longer than we like because this is a crisis caused, again, by people spending too much, living beyond their means, saving too little. And a long period of under-investing in the middle class and infrastructure and things like that. But those are things we can fix. And where we are strong today we are very strong."  

Geithner also talked about the impact of TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program) on the American psyche. "... the specter, the spectacle of us having to give-- and President Bush had to take this burden on initially, the-- billions of dollars to the institutions that were at the heart of the crisis was a huge cause of the anger that swept across the country," he said.

"No American thought that was fair. Nobody understood why it was necessary. But it was absolutely necessary. And what we did is get most of that money back at much lower cost for taxpayers. So we solved this crisis, this financial crisis. Not the broader economic crisis."