Barack Obama, the US president, has proposed a new tax on 50 of the country's largest financial institutions to reimburse taxpayers for the bank bailout of the past two years.

The White House says that revenue from the tax would recoup the $117bn they are still owed.

But Obama said the aim was not to punish Wall Street firms.

COUNTING THE COST

  Watch Al Jazeera's weekly business show
  At cruising altitude ... the Dubai Airshow
  Dubai World goes bust?
  From the heart of Dubai's financial crisis
 

Copenhagen climate summit

  Read Al Jazeera's business blog

The global economy is improving after the worst recession in 70 years, but public anger is mounting at those believed to have caused it.

In the minds of many, the culprits are the so-called Wall Street barons - highly paid bank executives.

They appeared before a US congress enquiry this week, accused mainly of re-packaging bad mortgage debt and selling it on.

They have also been criticised for continuing the practice of lavish bonus payments for their employees even as the downturn keeps 15 million Americans out of work.

Sub-prime mortgages, the technical term for mortgages which are sold to people with poor credit ratings, bubbled in the years leading up to the crisis.

With the help of new financial products such as credit default swaps and endlessly rising house prices, banks began issuing loans with greater risk.

The collapse of this market caused losses and write downs of $1.7tn at financial firms worldwide.

In response, the US government set up a $700bn fund to bail out the nations banks. In total more than $11tn was spent by governments globally to fight the downturn.

But as the banks return to profit and pay huge bonuses to their employees, public anger has turned on the governments for saving them.

This week Counting the Cost, with host Imran Garda, examines the US Congress enquiry, and takes a look at Venezuela where flat screen televisions are being bought up in massive numbers after Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan president, devalued the currency. We also investigate Google's spat with the Chinese government.

This episode of Counting the Cost aired from Friday, 15 January, 2010.

Source: Al Jazeera