Obama Recaps Early Steps in Reform Effort
By Scott Wilson
President Obama used his weekly radio address today to review some of the steps he has taken toward reforming health care, contracting procedures and an opaque budget process. The results, he said, will save money for the government and for millions of Americans.
But his remarks, coming after another week of extraordinarily grim economic news, served as a reminder of the rhetorical challenge he faces, both in presenting an honest assessment of his concern over the economy and in offering hope that a slow process of recovery has begun.
The Labor Department reported yesterday that the U.S. workforce lost 651,000 jobs last month, driving up the national unemployment rate to more than 8 percent, the highest since 1983.
"These aren't just statistics, but hardships experienced personally by millions of Americans who no longer know how they'll pay their bills, or make their mortgage, or raise their families," the president said. "From the day I took office, I knew that solving this crisis would not be easy, nor would it happen overnight. And we will continue to face difficult days in the months ahead."
Obama has been criticized, including by members of his own party, for presenting a relentlessly bleak picture of the economy, which he has called the worst since the Great Depression. An estimated 4.4 million jobs have disappeared since the recession officially began in December 2007.
Obama asserted today -- as he did earlier this week while announcing a review of government procurement procedures -- that "my administration inherited a $1.3 trillion budget deficit, the largest in history. And we've inherited a budgeting process as irresponsible as it is unsustainable."
"For years, as Wall Street used accounting tricks to conceal costs and avoid responsibility, Washington did, too," he added.
He closed, though, with a hint of optimism.
"Yes, this is a moment of challenge for our country," Obama said. "But we've experienced great trials before. And with every test, each generation has found the capacity to not only endure, but to prosper -- to discover great opportunity in the midst of great crisis."
Posted at 6:00 AM ET on Mar 7, 2009
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