SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – The Obama administration’s top financial official said Thursday that he had to do “terrible things” to fix the U.S. economy, but insisted they were necessary.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner made the remarks while speaking to the Commonwealth Club of California at San Francisco’s Mark Hopkins Hotel.

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On his way to an economic summit in China, Geithner said that sometimes, during as deep a financial crisis as the one he faced upon taking office, tough decisions have to be made.

KCBS’ Doug Sovern Reports:

“You have to do things that you’d never want to do. You have to do things that are deeply politically difficult and will be unpopular,” Geithner said. “But if you don’t do them, you leave the country terrible worse off.”

Geithner said he was confident the administration was right to bail out the banks and take other steps that turned an economy that was shrinking at an annual rate of nine percent into one that is growing, albeit very slowly.

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“It’s a tough economy still,’ he said. “We need to get more people back to work. We have to rebuild a broken infrastructure. We have to give Americans better access to better education.”

Geithner also called on China to make financial reforms that will improve its economic relationship with the United States.

During his speech, he was interrupted by a shouting member of the protest group Code Pink, who was removed and interrogated by the Secret Service.

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