President Barack Obama on Thursday proposed Wall Street banks pay up to $117 billion to reimburse taxpayers for the financial bailout, as he slammed bankers for their “massive profits and obscene bonuses.”


Striking a populist tone, Obama called for a fee on the biggest U.S. banks to “recover every single dime” the government spent rescuing the financial sector from its worst crisis since the Great Depression.


“My determination to achieve this goal is only heightened when I see reports of massive profits and obscene bonuses at some of the very firms who owe their continued existence to the American people,” Obama said, reflecting increasingly harsh rhetoric toward the financial industry.


The White House hopes a tougher line with Wall Street will resonate with an American public furious at multimillion-dollar bonuses being handed out by banks as the middle-class struggles with double-digit unemployment.


The fee, which Obama will formally propose in his fiscal year 2011 budget to be released in February, is also aimed at helping to reduce the ballooning U.S. budget deficit.