Friday 23 March 2018

Obama says pain still real despite 'end of recession'

US President Barack Obama. Photo: Getty Images
US President Barack Obama. Photo: Getty Images

Julie Pace

PRESIDENT Barack Obama said last night he does not care that the US recession has been declared over by a group of economists. For the millions of Americans who are out of work or otherwise struggling, he said, "it's still very real for them."

Mr Obama denied that he was anti-business or anti-Wall Street in his economic proposals, commenting under close questioning during a town hall-style meeting broadcast live on CNBC television.

On the growing conservative movement known as the Tea Party, he called its scepticism of government "healthy"

But, he added, "It's not enough just to say, 'Get control of government.' I think it's important for you to say, 'You know, I'm willing to cut veterans' benefits or (pension) benefits or I'm willing to see these taxes go up."'

The government cannot simply cut taxes on the wealthiest Americans "and magically think things are going to work out," he said.

Focusing on the poor economic conditions that existed when he took office, Mr Obama said, "The hole was so deep that a lot of people out there are still hurting."

He spoke shortly after the National Bureau of Economic Research, a private panel of economists that dates the beginnings and ends of recessions, said the downturn that began in December 2007 ended in June 2009. At 18 months, that makes it the longest recession since World War II.

"Something that took 10 years to create is going to take a little more time to solve," Mr Obama said.



"Even though economists may say that the recession officially ended last year, obviously for the millions of people who are still out of work, people who have seen their home values decline, people who are struggling to pay the bills day to day, it's still very real for them."

He participated in the hour-long session before heading to the nearby state of Pennsylvania to raise money for Democratic Senate candidate Joe Sestak, who is locked in a tight race to hold a seat considered a must-win for the president's party.

The group assembled for the session included large and small business owners, teachers, students and unemployed people.

A woman who said she was the chief financial officer for a veterans' service organisation told Mr Obama, "I'm exhausted of defending you, defending your administration, defending the mantle of change that I voted for, and deeply disappointed with where we are right now."

The president told her that things were "moving in the right direction" under policies he has put in place.

A 30-year old law school graduate who said he could not find a job and could not even make interest payments on his student loans told Mr Obama he was inspired by his 2008 campaign but "that inspiration is dying away".

"The most important thing we can do right now is grow our economy," Mr Obama said.

CNBC's John Harwood, the moderator, asked Mr Obama if he had any plans to replace his two top economic advisers -- Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and chief economic adviser Lawrence Summers. House Republican leader John Boehner wants him to fire them, contending their economic advice has not been helpful.

The president sidestepped a direct answer but said, "This is tough work that they do."we're constantly asking, 'Is what we're doing working as well as it could?'"

Irish Independent

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