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Obama Refocuses on the Economy


President Obama delivered remarks on the economy at Georgetown University in Washington. (Gerald Herbert/Associated Press)

By Dan Balz
President Obama returned to job one this morning, adopting the tone of both professor and preacher to refocus on the economy. Claiming progress, he explained that there are still hard times ahead. That is the balancing act he must manage now and in the months ahead -- instilling confidence while lowering expectations.

In the face of a recession that has yet to run its course, Obama hopes to talk up the economy while preventing his own poll numbers from sagging. Failure in either endeavor could jeopardize the ambitious agenda of health care, energy and education that will dominate the next phase of his presidency.

For two weeks, the Obama presidency has been about foreign policy and national security -- the G-20, NATO, Turkey, Iraq and then on Sunday the dramatic rescue of Capt. Richard Phillips after Navy snipers killed the three pirates holding him hostage in a lifeboat. In the meantime, the markets staged a rally, two big banks reported first quarter profits and the president declared there were "glimmers of hope" after months of unrelenting bad economic news.

Today was a time to reframe and restate the central domestic narrative of Obama's presidency -- or at least the script he hopes to write: a flurry of actions -- many of them controversial -- to stimulate the economy; tough new policies to prevent the excesses that led to the current downfall; and bold action on multiple fronts to put in place a structure that will assure sustained prosperity in the future.

The speech was a textbook example of the Obama technique, in which refutation of his critics becomes a central part of the message. This was Professor Obama in action. In the campaign, he used this approach to rebut criticisms from Hillary Rodham Clinton and John McCain. Now his critics come in many forms.

Is the stimulus package an example of irresponsible, big government spending, as his Republican critics have charged? No, he argued. Economists on the left and right agree that in a recession, government needs to stimulate demand. Families and businesses have cut spending; government needs to step in.

Should government just let banks fail rather than bailout bad behavior, as many ordinary Americans believe? No, he argued, nations that have failed to act aggressively to get credit flowing in similar situations have only seen the problems persist longer.

Has the government been too timid, as some on the left have argued? No, he argued, government takeovers could cost the taxpayers even more money and undermine confidence. "We will do whatever is necessary to get credit flowing again but we will do so in ways that minimize risks to taxpayers and the broader economy," he said.

Lest people begin to believe that all these actions that have marked his first three months in office were random actions plugging one hole after another in the hull of the sinking economy, Obama tried to offer reassurance. The actions, from the bailouts to the stimulus to his in-the-works auto policy are "necessary pieces of the recovery puzzle" and are beginning to produce "signs of economic progress."

Preacher Obama turned to the Sermon on the Mount for his metaphor of the economic future he envisions -- an economy built not on sand but upon a rock. To do otherwise risks a return to the "bubble and bust" economy that brought the current crisis. "We must lay a new foundation for growth and prosperity," he said.

The pillars underpinning this new economic house include a new financial regulatory structure, new spending on education, a plan to reduce dependence on foreign oil and fund alternative sources of energy, a reformed health care system that expands coverage and cuts costs. And lastly, an attack on the federal deficits that threaten to grow dramatically under his presidency.

Obama has long argued that these initiatives cannot be delayed in the face of the current crisis, despite their budgetary implications and the strain they will put on the legislative process. But he faces a major fight on virtually every one of those proposals, particularly health care and energy.

Already it's doubtful that he can win passage for his ambitious cap-and-trade proposal. Health care talks are progressing but the key will be whether Obama can win support from some of the major business constituencies, thereby neutralizing an important part of the coalition that sank Bill Clinton's health plan. And yes, he also wants to reform Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

There was no news in Obama's major speech on Tuesday, just a well-articulated status report on his first 12 weeks of dealing with the worst recession since the Great Depression. The very fact that he felt obliged to give it underscores the belief inside the White House that he must remain visible and active in explaining his policies -- and confronting critics -- in order to maintain public confidence.

The economic road ahead remains difficult. The political road is equally fraught with problems for the new administration. The power of persuasion may help Obama maintain public support for his policies -- as long as those glimmers of hope in the economy burn brighter over time. It's likely this won't be the last time Obama attempts to explain why he has chosen to embrace such an ambitious agenda under such difficult conditions.

By Lexie Verdon  |  April 14, 2009; 1:10 PM ET
Categories:  Dan Balz's Take  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Obama's Cuba Shift Shows Confidence
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Comments

You know what I find offensive? Taco Bell is running a commercial. It starts out like an public anouncement about the tragedy of high school drop outs. Then it goes on about how Taco Bell supports teens finishing highschool. To prove this they will donate 15% of profits. (one time only), (on one specific day), and if you could read the fine print there probably is a particular store named. Is it gross or net?

I mean come on. Taco Bell is like the horror story too scare kids straight. Don't drop out or you'll end up working there. There entire work force is made up of slave labor. Something lower than lower class. The manditory abortion class where China sounds like an upgrade. The mobile home is out of my price range class. The I can't afford to eat where I work class, let alone pay for college. All colleges cost the price of some type of new vehicle every year in addition to the cost of living, which Taco Bell doesn't even make feigned attempt at paying it's employees. If the student or family member can't afford to support themselves working for this company, how can they afford the extravagent expense of college.

But to be fair, a huge majority of all businesses pay out what should be a "child labor exception" wage. With as few high quality adults as possible. A minimum wage of $15.00 an hour would be inhumane in many areas, probably most areas. To utilize the exception at least half the differance should be required to be placed in some sort of tuition reimbursment program. Anyway there 'one day only' deal is pretty weak considering it's got to be a tax write off. What are they saving the rest of their right offs for? The Beef Industry Bail Out fund? Or the Corn Meal Growers Autimation fund?

.... Trickle down Economics at it's finest.

Posted by: chavez66 | April 19, 2009 6:48 PM | Report abuse


OBAMA COMPARES HIS ECONOMIC PROGRAM TO THE 5 PILLARS--A ISLAMIC REFERENCE TO THE 5 PILLARS OF ISLAM
Posted by: JaxMax | April 14, 2009 4:38 PM
**

Drat, you found out about the great conspiracy! But it is too late, we've already won - why do you think the Pentagon has 5 sides? Yes, the military is secretly under the control of the mullahs! Bwahahaha!

(That's derision, not confirmation, for those of you inclined to believe too much.)

Posted by: j2hess | April 15, 2009 5:25 PM | Report abuse

Refocusing on the economy? He spent his first 6 weeks in office yelling Crisis & Catastrophe to get the AIG Bonus guarantee bill passed. Then he signed 9000 corrupt earmarks into law, and then proposed a budget with more spending, taxes, debt, and printed money in it than in the history of the world. So I suppose we can forgive him for taking a break from the 663,000 working people who lost their jobs in March while he was on his celebrity tour of Europe and bowing to the King of Saudi Arabia. Nice of him to come back from his celebrity tour, refute his critics and refocus on the economy? Amazing!

Posted by: valwayne | April 14, 2009 10:18 PM | Report abuse

for svrivener50, Yes, often my computer was frozen after trying to leave a comment in this section. This ONLY happens with the Washington Post, not the NY Times or any other publications. This has happened many, many times at the Post while making comments in regards to President Obama. I can only assume this is why Obama has left in many of the Bush people, particularily in regards to Homeland Security.

Posted by: librairie | April 14, 2009 5:34 PM | Report abuse

We KNOW we're in trouble when Obama's Summers is seen making speeches to the Carylye Group......these are the WEALTHIEST people in the world......with Bush Sr. included.....

NONE of THIS has ANYTHING to do with the little guy.......When Obama gives out stimulus money (that we don't actually even have) just like Bush did, it is the SAME OLD PACKAGE.....SPEND, SPEND, SPEND! which is what got us in this mess in the first place.......This country has NO REAL MONEY (only money of China, Japan, etc) and Obama wants to FUND EVERYTHING! for us. There is something terribly wrong with this picture, and the little guy pays the price.....bailouts....banks, insurance, car industry, USPS, etc, etc ad nauseum!

Posted by: librairie | April 14, 2009 5:21 PM | Report abuse

OBAMA COMPARES HIS ECONOMIC PROGRAM TO THE 5 PILLARS--A ISLAMIC REFERENCE TO THE 5 PILLARS OF ISLAM

In todays speech, Obama compared his program to the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7, The Bible) then made a direct reference to his programs 5 Pillars--a reference to his Islamic upbringing and the 5 Pillars of Islam.

Here is the quote:

"There is a parable at the end of the Sermon on the Mount that tells the story of two men."

"The first built his house on a pile of sand, and it was destroyed as soon as the storm hit. But the second is known as the wise man, for when "…the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house…it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock."

"We cannot rebuild this economy on the same pile of sand. We must build our house upon a rock. We must lay a new foundation for growth and prosperity – a foundation that will move us from an era of borrow and spend to one where we save and invest; where we consume less at home and send more exports abroad."

"It's a foundation built upon five pillars......."

RESPONSE--This will escape the Media-- who are fashionably religiously illiterate.

Check the transcript--its on the NYT.

Posted by: JaxMax | April 14, 2009 4:38 PM | Report abuse

Obama's playing the game at a whole different level than everybody else.

Anybody who's smart will line up behind him.

If they care at all about winning.

The guy's good. World-class good.

Like the man said --

Smile and take the money.

Obama's the best thing to happen to the US in decades.

And not a moment too soon.

Posted by: svreader | April 14, 2009 4:25 PM | Report abuse

CLIFF NOTES FOR THE MEDIA (prepackaged questions for busy Media Stars)

1. Is Obama familiar with the 5 Pillars of Islam?

2. Did he read his speech before seeing it on the teleprompter?

3. Who wrote the speech?

4. You advised the Media about the reference to the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7 The Bible).

Did you advise the religiously illiterate media of the reference regarding the 5 Pillars?

Posted by: JaxMax | April 14, 2009 4:24 PM | Report abuse

PRESIDENT IRRELEVANT

Due to the terminal Budget and Stimulus deficits already incurred by Obama, he is now, paradoxically, President Irrelevant geopolitically.

China will surpass the USA economically as they have embraced Capitalism while Obama and Pelosi stumble drunkenly towards complete socialism. Even Europe will surpass us and the Euro will replace the Dollar as the world reserve currency–indeed Geithner and Obama have already publicly surrendered the currency.

Meanwhile, militarily, Obama has surrendered Missile defense and naively denounced nuclear weapons in his quest for complete sovereign emasculation of the USA.

China and Europe will decline to buy US bonds to fund Obama Entitlement Land, so Obama will just order Helicopter Bernanke to print and deliver worthless Obama Dolllars.

First the USA will and has lost its economic sovereignty, then Obama will cede political sovereignty one treaty and International Organization at a time.

President Obama inherited the greatest country on earth, the finest military, the largest economy and SQUANDERED it all to become President Irrelevant.

Posted by: JaxMax | April 14, 2009 4:20 PM | Report abuse


and that means what jaxmax?

Posted by: TheBabeNemo | April 14, 2009 4:19 PM | Report abuse


die broke?
heck, they are leaving college with a diploma in their hand
and
$30,000 in debt already.

that's at 21 and 22 years of age.

Posted by: TheBabeNemo | April 14, 2009 4:17 PM | Report abuse

OBAMA COMPARES HIS ECONOMIC PROGRAM TO THE 5 PILLARS--A ISLAMIC REFERENCE TO THE 5 PILLARS OF ISLAM

In todays speech, Obama compared his program to the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7, The Bible) then made a direct reference to his programs 5 Pillars--a reference to his Islamic upbringing and the 5 Pillars of Islam.

Here is the quote:

"There is a parable at the end of the Sermon on the Mount that tells the story of two men."

"The first built his house on a pile of sand, and it was destroyed as soon as the storm hit. But the second is known as the wise man, for when "…the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house…it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock."

"We cannot rebuild this economy on the same pile of sand. We must build our house upon a rock. We must lay a new foundation for growth and prosperity – a foundation that will move us from an era of borrow and spend to one where we save and invest; where we consume less at home and send more exports abroad."

"It's a foundation built upon five pillars......."

RESPONSE--This will escape the Media--who are fashionably religiously illiterate.

Posted by: JaxMax | April 14, 2009 4:17 PM | Report abuse

Anybody who bets against President Obama is going to lose.

The only question is how much and how soon

In Silicon Valley, when you see a CEO like Obamas there's only one question.

"How can I get in on the deal?"

Anybody who bets against the guy is going to lose.

Posted by: svreader | April 14, 2009 4:08 PM | Report abuse

Banks took on more debt than they could handle. The government- chartered companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, whose traditional mandate was to help support traditional mortgages, decided to get in on the action by buying and holding billions of dollars of these securities.

AIG, the biggest insurer in the world -- had a very traditional insurance business that was very profitable -- decided to make profits suddenly by selling billions of dollars of complicated financial instruments that supposedly insured these securities.

Everybody was making record profits. Except the wealth created was real only on paper.
/////
Built on paper, which Bush kept printing during his 8 years.
//

Posted by: TheBabeNemo | April 14, 2009 4:03 PM | Report abuse

you will finally see a small up swing in Obamas plan when your childrens grandchildren have died broke due to paying off his democratic debt. The liberals will be pimping their children for food and begging for forgiveness.

Posted by: JWx2 | April 14, 2009 3:57 PM | Report abuse

the story reads, "On the economy, Obama tries to instill confidence while lowering expectations."

b-b-but... obama's the CHOSEN ONE...

Posted by: DriveByPoster | April 14, 2009 3:49 PM | Report abuse

JaxMax:

As an antidote to your theologically-based disinformation, may I recommend readers to this article:


http://nowpublic.com/world/targeting-u-s-citizens-govt-agencies-root-cause-wall-street-financial-crisis

OR http://members.nowpublic.com/scrivener RE: "Targeting of U.S. Citizens... A Root Cause..."

Posted by: scrivener50 | April 14, 2009 3:20 PM | Report abuse

DECODING OBAMASPEAK

The house on a rock scripture is from Matthew Chapter 7:

Mt 7:24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.

Mt 7:25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.

Mt 7:26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.

Mt 7:27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

RESPONSE: The housing collapse occurred because of Barney Frank and Fannie Mae making known fraudulent loans.

Barney Frank is a Democrat.

Obama has not sought to remove Frank from the Chair of the Banking Committee–indeed he supports Frank.

Democrats pick the Chair of the Banking Committee and Obama is the Head of the Democrat Party.

Yet Obama drones in his speech today:

The government-chartered companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, whose traditional mandate was to help support traditional mortgages, decided to get in on the action by buying and holding billions of dollars of these securities.

Then Obama drools about 5 Pillars a Direct Reference to his Islamic upbringing--The Five Pillars of Islam:

There is a parable at the end of the Sermon on the Mount that tells the story of two men. The first built his house on a pile of sand, and it was destroyed as soon as the storm hit. But the second is known as the wise man, for when "…the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house…it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock."

We cannot rebuild this economy on the same pile of sand. We must build our house upon a rock. We must lay a new foundation for growth and prosperity – a foundation that will move us from an era of borrow and spend to one where we save and invest; where we consume less at home and send more exports abroad.
It's a foundation built upon five pillars that will grow our economy and make this new century another American century: new rules for Wall Street that will reward drive and innovation; new investments in education that will make our workforce more skilled and competitive; new investments in renewable energy and technology that will create new jobs and industries; new investments in health care that will cut costs for families and businesses; and new savings in our federal budget that will bring down the debt for future generations. That is the new foundation we must build. That must be our future – and my Administration's policies are designed to achieve that future.


Obama–built on sand.

Posted by: JaxMax | April 14, 2009 3:11 PM | Report abuse


all americans want the "fix" of their own circumstance/problem delivered to their door step, so they can benefit.
they want the solution FEDEXed to them, for their particular problem...so everything can be rosey again.

do you know how hard it is to apply new "behavior" through law and code
to the COLLECTIVE...

when we are all sitting in the INDIVIDUAL world and only wanting OUR problem fixed.

Posted by: TheBabeNemo | April 14, 2009 2:38 PM | Report abuse

the most important part:

a new financial regulatory structure.

Posted by: TheBabeNemo | April 14, 2009 2:34 PM | Report abuse

The President is still not addressing the major problem facing this nation which is a lack of jobs.

It is almost impossible for a government to create jobs.

The only solution to the lack of jobs in America is to recover the jobs that have been lost because American companies were allowed to exploit cheap foreign labor.

There is no future in America if American companies are simply allowed to exploit cheap foreign labor instead of Americans. The latest incident of this was IBM firing 5000 Americans and shipping their jobs overseas. Only last week "The News Hour" reported that legal work is being offshored to India and done by Indian lawyers.

No other nation in the world allows this except the United States.

It is impossible to have any foundation for an economy when American jobs will simply disappear as soon as a way can be found to use cheap foreign labor.

American students who once flocked to the computer sciences left this key field in 2002 when American jobs in the field were simply sent overseas and thousands of cheap foreign workers were used in America to replace Americans.

Until the President addresses the problem of American jobs being lost by the exploitation of cheap foreign labor all of his statements about the recovery are window dressing.

There can not be recovery without American jobs, and currently there are none.

Posted by: bsallamack | April 14, 2009 2:27 PM | Report abuse

People are developing more acute hearing in politicians public orations. The President does not yet say anything that gives any hope to the unemployed and the foreclosed homeless. Unless he can talk about SPECIFIC legislation he or his party that will directly and very soon help the hopeless, they will turn a deaf ear to his speeches that are already given too often. FDR did much more to help then talk about how helping multi-national banks; he acted with employment programs that put the unemployed to work almost immediately. I am beginning to think that Obama really is a tyro in getting things done for average Americans. He relies on Clintonistas far too much. Ah well, for a while it seemed that he was going to work out okay.

Posted by: sperrico | April 14, 2009 2:23 PM | Report abuse

As the latest Liar-in-Chief, is he still running for something or is he just running away from something. Also, his theme song of "not my fault" is getting a bit trite. His new theme song should be something with an "Animal Farm" motif.

Posted by: GordonShumway | April 14, 2009 2:16 PM | Report abuse

I watched President Obama's speech on economics at Georgetown University just this morning, but I have to admit that the speech I heard and the one that Dan Balz reported on appear to be two different speeches. Mr. Balz, I wish you would just report the news, without adding your persoanl (and extremely biased) opinion. As I retired university professor, I appreciated President Obama's explanations of his attempts to correct the dismal economy brought to us by the previous administrations -- Bush and Clinton. I thought his use of the parable from the Sermon on the Mount was masterful -- a good way of reaching those Christians who read their Bibles faithfully. Mr. Balz, I recognize that The Washington Post and most of its writers feel that they must be negative about anything and everything that President Obama does or says. But all of you who how indulge yourselves in negativism are actually quite boring. Next time, try a little neutrality, please.

Posted by: marmac5 | April 14, 2009 2:02 PM | Report abuse


"The very fact that he felt obliged to give it underscores the belief inside the White House that he must remain visible and active in explaining his policies "
What a pile of horse manure. The nitwit can't stay out of the limelight. He still doesn't have a clue, but that doesn't stop him from running his mouth.
He sees hope? I'm surprised he can see anything with his head in rectal defilade so far.
The bozo is incompetent and his habit of lecturing those who he sees as beneath him is as offensive as it has always been, except it seems, to you media phonies.
What an embarrassment.
Posted by: LarryG62 | April 14, 2009 1:47 PM


//

Larry, the Post apologizes. Your contribution has been posted, but the date is three years later than you obviously intended.

Posted by: Attucks | April 14, 2009 1:51 PM | Report abuse

"The very fact that he felt obliged to give it underscores the belief inside the White House that he must remain visible and active in explaining his policies "

What a pile of horse manure. The nitwit can't stay out of the limelight. He still doesn't have a clue, but that doesn't stop him from running his mouth.

He sees hope? I'm surprised he can see anything with his head in rectal defilade so far.

The bozo is incompetent and his habit of lecturing those who he sees as beneath him is as offensive as it has always been, except it seems, to you media phonies.
What an embarrassment.

Posted by: LarryG62 | April 14, 2009 1:47 PM | Report abuse

DO YOUR COMMENTS TO POLITICAL BLOGS SUCH AS '44' SOMETIMES FAIL TO POST...

ELICITING A 'HELD FOR BLOG OWNER' MESSAGE?

IT COULD BE GOVERNMENT CENSORSHIP AT WORK.


Once again today, my attempts to post comments to this board have elicited the "held for blog owner" message -- although The Washington Post does not "hold" posts unless its software detects foul language.


Invariably, the content of my comments seems to be the determining factor. Today, I wrote a comment voicing the opinion that the economic crisis cannot be solved until Team Obama dismantles the "extrajudicial punishment network"...


...a series of secret federal "programs of personal destruction" coupled with a federally-enabled, nationwide network of local "community gang stalkers" who violate the civil and human rights of so-called "targeted individuals."


These "targets" may number in the millions. They have been charged with no crime. But they remain under seemingly endless investigation, and claim to be subject to harassment and even physical abuse.


I am posting my apparently censored comments to the following link at ACLU's "Blog of Rights", where I have memorialized a litany of apparent infringements:


http://blog.aclu.org/2009/01/26/internet-filters-voluntary-ok-not-government-mandate


This censorship appears to be emanating from the Department of Homeland Security- administered "fusion center" near my home:


http://nowpublic.com/world/govt-fusion-center-spying-pretext-harass-and-censor


If my rights to freedom of speech and unreasonable search and seizure of my telecommunications can be violated on a daily basis, so can YOURS.


I believe my experiences indicate that freedom of speech, especially political speech, is dying in America -- and that we are being transformed, slowly and insidiously, into a fascist police state.


As someone who has worked in the mainstream media for more than three decades, I must say that our journalistic gatekeepers are asleep at the switch. I will continue to raise a warning in this space -- that is, unless the authoritarians who apparently are censoring political speech in America shut me down.


Team Obama, please wake up. This state of affairs is an much a threat to the viability of your administration as it is to any single individual's constitutional rights.


http://My.NowPublic.com/scrivener

Posted by: scrivener50 | April 14, 2009 1:47 PM | Report abuse

This man has the toughest tasks ahead of any U.S. president in my nearly 60 years due to the most unaccomplished president we've had in that time as his predecessor. I fervently hope for his success. There is one unsolvable problem I do foresee. Health care for all Americans. Dr. Tim Johnson, on ABC news, pointed out exactly why. Our doctors in this country are 70% specialists and only 30% general practioners, or your old-fashioned family doctor. In countries with socialized medicine, the reverse is true. Until doctors in America stop going after the big money exclusively and start refocusing on primary care, health care for all will always be out of reach. I'm not holding my breath.

Posted by: curtb | April 14, 2009 1:35 PM | Report abuse

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