Trying to buck up a dispirited nation, President Barack Obama today promised that prosperous days will return and cast these bleak times as nothing less than a “great opportunity.” Packing some heft with his hope, he defended his fast-moving and expensive agenda. “We will get through this,” Obama said in his weekly radio and video address, taped Friday after another week of downbeat news.The unemployment rate climbed to 8.1 percent, the highest in more than 25 years. Stock values kept tumbling, down to their lowest levels since 1997. The latest Gallup polling finds that an anemic 20 percent of people in the United States are satisfied with the state of the nation. At least that’s an improvement from the 14 percent a month earlier.
Rather than pitch ahead to his next message, Obama devoted his address to recapping what his team did this past week to help get people working and spending.
The goal was to demonstrate that the administration is on the case and, more broadly, that history shows American resilience will win.
“We’ve experienced great trials before,” Obama said. “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. That is what we can and must do today. And I am absolutely confident that is what we will do.”
The echoes of history emerge often as Obama seeks a balance between the practical language of governing and the oratory meant to keep people inspired. Just a few days earlier, he promoted new transportation plans by saying the nation built itself up before, during the Civil War and the Great Depression.
Recent efforts include a more detailed plan to help struggling homeowners avoid foreclosure; another plan to spur lending for people and businesses; an overhaul of the way the government hands out private contracts to reduce waste; and a summit on how to overhaul health care.
He defended his budget proposal, whacked Wall Street “accounting tricks” and sent a message to Congress that it must make some tough choices.
Separately, the president offered advice to people struggling to pay their bills. He told The New York Times that people should be prudent and get back to fundamentals, with an eye on steady savings, reasonable returns and long-term investing.
“What I don’t think people should do is suddenly stuff money in their mattresses and pull back completely from spending,” Obama told the newspaper in an interview posted on its Web site today. “I don’t think that people should be fearful about our future. I don’t think that people should suddenly mistrust all of our financial institutions because the overwhelming majority of them actually have managed things reasonably well.”
The president would not say whether the economy will be growing again by year’s end. He said that timing depends on several factors. Notable among them was his call for other countries to take actions to shore up their financial markets and coordinate those actions with the U.S.
Another busy week awaits Obama, who was at Camp David for the weekend with his family.
On Monday, he plans to reverse President George W. Bush’s restrictions on federal funding for stem cell research. On Tuesday, it is a push for education overhaul. Come Thursday, he will discuss the economic rescue with state officials.
“From the day I took office, I knew that solving this crisis would not be easy, nor would it happen overnight,” Obama said in the weekly address. “And we will continue to face difficult days in the months ahead. But I also believe that we will get through this – that if we act swiftly and boldly and responsibly, the United States of America will emerge stronger and more prosperous than it was before.”
More than 4 million jobs have disappeared since the recession began in December 2007. The rate of the job losses is only accelerating.
Obama says the country can’t afford to take on one big problem at a time. Politically, his strongest time to attack them all may be now.
In one of the biggest examples, he has set a goal of signing a bill this year that would fix the health care system, which leaves millions uninsured.
Obama says he is not wedded to a plan on how to fix the problem. But one proposal he has endorsed, giving people the option of buying medical coverage through a government plan, is drawing opposition from Republicans.
Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., emphasized that point in the GOP’s weekly radio address. “I’m concerned that if the government steps in it will eventually push out the private health care plans millions of Americans enjoy today,” Blunt said.