Obama to focus on economy in news conference
WASHINGTON ” President Barack Obama looked to steer the nation’s economic attention to the bigger picture Tuesday night and away from recent days’ micro-focus on outrage over executive bonuses, declaring signs of progress as his administration attacks the crisis “on all fronts.”
“It’s a strategy to create jobs, to help responsible homeowners, to restart lending and to grow our economy over the long term,” Obama said in remarks released in advance of his prime-time news conference.
During a crowded week for the White House and furious debate that echoed from Main Street to Capitol Hill corridors, the president sought to take a step back. He summarized the steps taken so far by his administration to address the worst economic disaster in a quarter-century, framing them with optimism.
“We will recover from this recession,” he said. “But it will take time, it will take patience and it will take an understanding that when we all work together ” when each of us looks beyond our own short-term interests to the wider set of obligations we have to each other ” that’s when we succeed.”
A day earlier, the Obama administration unveiled a plan to melt a vast credit freeze by helping banks shed bad loans. Under the plan, the government will finance the purchase by private investors of as much as $1 trillion of the $2 trillion in bad assets still held by the nation’s banks, in the hopes of freeing banks to begin lending more freely and churn up economic activity.
The proposal led to a huge stock rally on Monday, though stocks slipped back somewhat on Tuesday as Wall Street digested all the information.
The administration also is to outline its proposal for a broad overhaul of financial regulations on Thursday when Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner testifies on Capitol Hill. A key request: greater ability for the government to regulate and even take over the kind of complicated financial companies ” like American International Group ” whose collapse could threaten the entire system.
But anti-AIG ferocity threatens to undermine Obama’s efforts to bail out the nation’s deeply troubled financial sector, by possibly scaring investors away from the new program and by making it more difficult to wring more bailout money out of Congress.
Obama also is preparing for a European trip next week that includes a London summit on the global economic crisis, while, away from the economy, an announcement is expected by Friday on a revamped U.S. strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The president took particular care to defend the $3.6 trillion budget proposal that includes his ambitious, all-at-once agenda of increased health care coverage, higher education spending and a new “cap-and-trade” system on greenhouse gases emissions. The blueprint starts its journey through Congress this week, and is encountering opposition and demands for big spending reductions from fellow Democrats as well as Republicans.
“This budget is inseparable from this recovery because it is what lays the foundation for a secure and lasting prosperity,” Obama argued.
On Wednesday, a day after taking questions in prime-time television viewing hours ” to maximize the unfiltered exposure of the president’s message ” Obama is heading to Capitol Hill to lobby Senate Democrats.
Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell emphasized Republican criticism of the president’s proposed budget as an over-spending, over-taxing disaster. A Congressional Budget Office analysis released last Friday estimates Obama’s budget would generate deficits totaling $9.3 trillion over the next decade
“If these plans are carried out, we run the risk of looking like a Third World country,” said McConnell, R-Ky.
But Obama repeated his claim that his plans would cut the deficit in half by the end of his first term in 2011 ” “even under the most pessimistic estimates.”
“At the end of the day, the best way to bring our deficit down in the long run is not with a budget that continues the very same policies that have led to a narrow prosperity and massive debt,” the president said. “It’s with a budget that leads to broad economic growth by moving from an era of borrow and spend to one where we save and invest.”
Obama’s job approval rating is 63 percent, according to Gallup polling. That number has been relatively stable recently, down from the 68 percent when the president took office mostly on a loss of support among Republicans.
Obama has been in near-constant motion since he assumed the presidency just over two months ago. This week has assumed an especially feverish pitch.
In addition to all the announcements, a long interview with CBS’ “60 Minutes” aired Sunday night. An opinion piece written by Obama also ran in 31 newspapers worldwide on Tuesday, a setup to next week’s meeting of leaders of the Group of 20 largest world economies.