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At CNBC town hall, Obama is asked: 'Is the American dream dead?'

Updated 1:35 p.m.

obamatownhall.jpg

U.S. President Barack Obama is seen on a television set as reporters listen to his remarks during a town hall meeting at the Newseum in Washington.

(Photo Credit: Jim Young/Reuters)

By Ariana Eunjung Cha and Nia-Malika Henderson
President Obama, speaking Monday at a town hall on CNBC, had a specific audience in mind -- Wall Street, big business and investors.

For weeks, Obama has been engaging in what some might call a bit of class warfare as he's pushed for rolling back the Bush tax cuts for upper-income earners and leaving the middle-class breaks in place. This hasn't set too well with big business. Nor have the sweeping financial regulations that Obama signed into law, which stripped some power from Wall Street and increased Washington's oversight.

Monday's town hall meeting started off on a sour note when the first questioner from the audience, a woman who said she voted for him, said she is "deeply disappointed with where I am now."

"My husband and I thought we were beyond the hot dog and beans of our lives. ... Is this my new reality?" she asked.

"I understand your frustration," Obama said. He defended his administration's efforts to help the middle class, listing achievements such as better protection for mortgage loans and health insurance for those with preexisting conditions.

But the hits continued.

A representative from the business community, Kenneth Langone, a co-founder of Home Depot, asked via a video feed for an explanation of what he sees as the administration's anti-business stance.

Then a 30-year-old law school graduate said he's no longer able to make the interest payments on his educational loans, much less able to have a mortgage or a family. He said he had been inspired by Obama's campaign. But now, "that inspiration is dying away," he said. "I really want to know: Is the American dream dead?

"Absolutely not. ... There is not a country in the world that would want to change places with us," Obama responded. "We are still the country that billions of people in the world look to and aspire to."

Through the negative questioning, Obama appeared at ease, repeating variations of things he's said for months in speeches about the economy.
 
The one question that seemed to throw him off was about the "tea party." A Georgetown University MBA student asked him to comment about the conservative movement's calls for the administration to get the budget under control.
 
After saying that the United States has a "noble tradition" of being "helpfully skeptical of government," Obama went on the attack. He said members of the tea party are "misidentifying sort of who the culprits are here." He said the government has been dealing with two tax cuts that weren't paid for and two wars that weren't paid for -- alluding to actions by the Bush administration.

He challenged the tea party to come up with specific tax cuts or ways to control spending, rather than just talking about the need to reduce the $4 trillion deficit and hoping that "magically somehow things are going to work."
 
"We're not going to be able to solve the problem just by yelling at each other," he said.
 
He then, a bit jarringly, turned the conversation back to Wall Street. "We haven't raised corporate tax rates since I've been in office," he said.

Obama drew enthusiastic applause only a handful of times during the town hall, which seemed to be filled mostly with people who had stories of disappointment and frustration. One such positive moment was near the end of his talk, when he got a question about another nation some Americans blame for U.S. troubles: China.

The president said the administration has been bringing more actions regarding the communist country, which is blamed for holding its currency artificially low, thus making its goods cheaper to export and hurting U.S. jobs.

"We are going to enforce our trade law much more effectively than we have in the past. ...We want to make sure trade is good for American businesses and American workers, and in the past few years it hasn't been," he said.

While it's often hard to judge whether the president has actually broken through in such forums, this time it'll be easy. Just check the markets at the end of the day.

By Ariana Eunjung Cha  | September 20, 2010; 12:44 PM ET
Categories:  Regulation, U.S. Economy  
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Comments

awd

Posted by: Anonymous | September 20, 2010 1:51 PM | Report abuse

I will vote for this progressive socialist liberal party when pigs fly.

Posted by: farmsnorton | September 20, 2010 2:11 PM | Report abuse

The U.S. has the 2nd Highest corporate tax rate in the world.
Obama forgets that many Democrats voted for the wars, too. Its not the same as deciding whether to have a stimulus package.
Obama said his administration would "go through the budget, line by line..."
Remember that? Whatever happened with that, huh? Obama doesn't have a budget!!!

Posted by: ohioan | September 20, 2010 2:34 PM | Report abuse

Frightening news sells best, it awakens the public from their deep sleep. News about the severity of the recession puts every worker into a panic, they imagine that they will soon be homeless and sleeping under a bridge. A report that the banks might default and depositors may lose their life savings will get the most viewers. News that the Queen of England will soon visit the US will put everybody back to sleep.

Posted by: morristhewise | September 20, 2010 4:06 PM | Report abuse

Recession Over For Wall Street and Corporate multinationals, as more businesses shift overseas.

Corporatism Now Rules America, with Roberts Five Conservative Supreme Court Control...Unlimited "Corporate Money in U. S. Elections are Free Speech"... and Secret

U. S. Depression Deepens for American Workers, as Economy Re-Strutures from Manufacturing and production into Service low-paid global wage competition:

83% of all U.S. stocks in hands of 1% of the people.

61% of Americans now live paycheck to paycheck.

Over 1.4 million Americans filed for personal bankruptcy in 2009. (+32% over 2009)

As of 2007, bottom 80% of Americans held 7% the liquid financial assets.

Approximately 21% of All American Children live Below Poverty line.

Top 10% of Americans now Earn over 50% of National Income.

Only top 5% of households have earned enough additional income to Match Rise in Housing Costs since 1975.

A staggering 43 percent of Americans have less than $ 10,000 saved for Retirement.

Almost 30% of Homeowners Owe technically Broke, owing more on their Homes than its Market Value, and increasing as house values continue to fall for several more years!

Posted by: Anonymous | September 20, 2010 4:12 PM | Report abuse

Throw Democrats out of office again and again until they are gone.

The vote among Libertarians, Republicans, Constitutionalists, "Tea Partiers" and whatever is left, until we get leaders who understand enumerated powers, and adhere to those governmental restrictions.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 20, 2010 5:26 PM | Report abuse

When will Hussein be a man? So it's up to the Tea Party to say exactly what they would cut from the budget? Is Hussein saying that he has nothing to cut? Is he saying that every budget item is essential? Does that include the African genital washing program? Does it include the entire stimulus, which cost more than Iraq and was a 100% failure? Since when is it the Tea Party's job to do Hussein's job? The incessant whining from this female reproductive organ Obama is just too much. Is Obama ever going to man up and do his job, or will he sit sucking his thumb and whining like a little baby?

Posted by: TruthWins | September 20, 2010 5:33 PM | Report abuse

When ever clever businessmen need loyal employees they recruit those that are sleeping under the bridge. Once a person experiences the chill and hunger that comes with sleeping without shelter, they will never bite the hand that feeds them. Hitler recruited his SS from the gutters of Berlin, they never forgot his kindness and were loyal until the end. No person is too proud to be a bootlicker,when horrible circumstances present themselves.

Posted by: morristhewise | September 20, 2010 6:51 PM | Report abuse

Disband the Department of Education. They educate NOBODY. Disband the Department of Energy. They produce NO energy. Close HUD. They’ve done nothing to assist in the housing crisis. They’ve just caused more regulation. Closing all three of these agencies will balance the budget and solve the deficit.

Cut taxes, regulation and stand down. Washington is nothing but a speed bump for progress.

Barry could have at least offered her a slab of wagyu beef in the name of redistributing the wealth and all.

Posted by: Jen06 | September 20, 2010 9:49 PM | Report abuse

America Welcomes everyone who are greedy and willing to work and wrok for the $. Too much freedom, too much greed, this is what happening.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 21, 2010 3:43 AM | Report abuse

Best place to find quality quality bankruptcy info online is http://bit.ly/avB0jI

Posted by: jonseth21 | September 21, 2010 6:11 AM | Report abuse

To the lady that asked president Obama a question, I am sorry that he didn't give you an answer.. None of my teachers would have accepted that as an answer ` I would have received an F. No matter how much charisma I had the teacher would not have accepted that as an answer, unless, of course, I had one of the liberal college professors. It is sad that we have come to this point, where is the intelligence, integrity, and morals gone?

Posted by: Anonymous | September 21, 2010 11:06 AM | Report abuse

Obama- Student Loans are like that... First Ticket addressing that issue gets the vote.. Get Hip or Change will occur. Action not Rhetoric this time...

Posted by: Anonymous | September 21, 2010 12:27 PM | Report abuse

The leftist socialists have done such damage to this country since they took charge of Congress at the beginning of 2007 and immediately shut down the Bush Administration from doing anything further for the remainder of its term, including shutting down all efforts to stop the government underwriting of bad financial loans and taking steps to stop the financial markets from melting down.

All of this can be laid at the feet of Pelosi, Reid, Frank and the other Socialists that have had a death grip on America. The election of another far-left politician, Obama, has only made it worse. The worst nightmare, Obamacare, is an anchor around the neck of the economy. Absolutely no businesses are going to hire a single worker with Obamacare poised to send employee benefit and health insurance costs through the roof.

Fortunately, Americans are coming to take back their country this Fall and to restore American values to America.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 21, 2010 2:14 PM | Report abuse

vvv

Posted by: Anonymous | September 22, 2010 12:37 PM | Report abuse

Good Lord! To read the comments on the Washington Post, one would assume every comment was written by a teabagger! Here's why progressives and liberals don't post more often on here: they are too busy working and/or trying to find work. They're not all a bunch of overprivileged white people who can spend all their time waving misspelled racist signs at teabagger rallies and calling Obama a socialist on blogs. Why don't you people get a life?

Posted by: fredo39 | September 22, 2010 1:01 PM | Report abuse

How is "checking the markets" and accurate gauge of the effectiveness of any political position or presentation? Markets are focused on and responsive to short-term, money-making opportunities and incentives. These money-making opportunities are often rent-seeking, free from paying for their externalities and other full social costs, and ignorant into the long-term, public good that a President is obliged to protect. Directing readers to "check the market" perpetuates a zeitgeist that Wall Street knows what is better for the long term health of "We the People" than the President (or any politician who has taken an oath to uphold the Constitution) is both ignorant and dangerous.

If anything, the last few years should have taught us that markets going up up up may be the first sign of danger.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 22, 2010 4:43 PM | Report abuse

How is "checking the markets" and accurate gauge of the effectiveness of any political position or presentation? Markets are focused on and responsive to short-term, money-making opportunities and incentives. These money-making opportunities are often rent-seeking, free from paying for their externalities and other full social costs, and ignorant into the long-term, public good that a President is obliged to protect. Directing readers to "check the market" perpetuates a zeitgeist that Wall Street knows what is better for the long term health of "We the People" than the President (or any politician who has taken an oath to uphold the Constitution), and is both ignorant and reckless journalism.

If anything, the last few years should have taught us that markets going up up up may be the first sign of danger.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 22, 2010 4:48 PM | Report abuse

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