On Economy, Obama Sees Glimmers of Hope and Signs of Progress
By Michael A. Fletcher
President Obama said today that the nation's economy is showing signs of progress as a series of his policies begin to come on line, despite mounting unemployment and other problems that continue to plague the country.
In brief remarks to reporters after a meeting with his economic advisers at the White House, Obama said there are signs of hope appearing amid the gloomy economic landscape. "What you're starting to see is glimmers of hope across the economy," Obama said, adding that it is too soon to make any firm pronouncements.
"Now, we have always been very cautious about prognosticating and that's not going to change just because it's Easter," the president said. "The economy is still under severe stress and obviously during these holidays we have to keep in mind whatever we do ultimately has to translate into economic growth and jobs and rising incomes for the American people."
Citing continuing problems in the labor market, which has seen unemployment rise to 8.5 percent as the economy has shed more than 3.3 million jobs over the past five months, Obama said, "We've still got a lot of work to do."
Still, he said, the signs of progress are unmistakable. With mortgage interest rates at historic lows, refinancing is up. Obama said that his administration is working out the details of a public-private investment mechanism aimed at buying toxic assets, allowing banks to clear them from their balance sheets, which should facilitate more lending. Also, he said, efforts to increase small business loans are apparently paying dividends: in the past month, there has been a 20 percent increase in the largest Small Business Administration loan program, the president said.
"We're starting to see progress," he said. "And if we stick with it, if we don't flinch in the face of some difficulties, then I feel absolutely convinced that we are going to get this economy back on track."
The president's meeting with his economic advisers came after his trip to Europe, Turkey and Iraq, which focused largely on efforts to revive the global economy. Joining him at the White House were Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, top economic adviser Larry Summers, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, Sheila Bair, chair of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Securities and Exchange Commission Chairwoman Mary Schapiro and Comptroller of the Currency John Dugan.
Obama's upbeat remarks about the economy are his second in as many days. Yesterday, the president held an event at the White House where he touted the nation's low mortgage interest rates.
Posted at 2:51 PM ET on Apr 10, 2009
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