Obama: Economic remedies yield signs of progress

WASHINGTON, (Reuters) – President Barack Obama  said yesterday his administration was confronting the economic  crisis on all fronts and seeing signs of progress as he sought  to reassure recession-weary Americans about his recovery  strategy.

“We will recover from this recession. But it will take  time, it will take patience,” he said in the opening statement  of his second prime-time White House news conference since he took office on Jan. 20.

Knocked off stride by public anger over hefty corporate  bonuses and facing skepticism about his massive budget plan,  Obama moved to regain his political footing and refocus  attention on his broader economic agenda.

He made his case to the American people the same day he  pressed for coordinated action among the world’s major  economies, and just a day after unveiling a trillion-dollar  plan to soak up toxic bank assets at the root of the global  financial meltdown.

Obama took the podium after U.S. stocks slid while  investors paused to reassess the government’s latest effort to  clean up bank balance sheets. Initial euphoria over the plan  had driven stocks sharply higher on Monday.

Though the economy was in the spotlight, Obama’s news  conference also gave him a chance to lay some groundwork a week  before he makes his debut on the world stage with his first  major presidential trip overseas.

Brushing aside suggestions the G20 summit of major  economies in London on April 2 would find him at odds with  Europeans, Obama said he expected leaders to share common goals  of boosting growth and updating outdated financial regulations  while avoiding trade protectionism.
Obama, who has vowed to repair America’s image overseas  after eight years under predecessor George W. Bush, said there  was signs his policy changes were “restoring confidence”  internationally in the U.S. global leadership.”

He also made clear that he was serious about his recent  overtures of a fresh start in relations with longtime U.S. foe  Iran and said the status quo of the Israeli-Palestinian  conflict, in which he has promised strong U.S. engagement, was  “unsustainable.”

Focusing on the economy, Obama said, “We’ve put in place a  comprehensive strategy designed to attack this crisis on all  fronts. It’s a strategy to create jobs, to help responsible  homeowners, to restart lending, and to grow our economy over  the long-term. And we are beginning to see signs of progress.”

The administration has recently cited glimmers of  improvement in the devastated housing market, but most key  economic indicators remain under extreme stress.

Obama’s high approval ratings have been tested amid a  public backlash over payment of $165 million in executive  bonuses by American International Group after the insurance  giant received $180 billion in taxpayer bailout funds.

Obama was forced to repeatedly condemn the AIG bonuses  while trying to temper public outrage and fend off calls for  Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner’s resignation for his  handling of the affair.

“There was was a lot of outrage and finger-pointing last  week and much of it was understandable,” Obama told reporters,  adding that the time for “outsized rewards” on Wall Street was  past.

The AIG furor distracted from Obama’s effort to convince  Americans that his $787 billion economic stimulus program will  jolt the economy out of recession and his record $3.55 trillion  budget for fiscal 2010 will be money well spent.
Trying to change the subject back to his economic rescue  efforts, Obama defended his budget blueprint, which opposition  Republicans and even some fellow Democrats have criticized for  being too costly.

Obama said his budget, which will be taken up by  congressional committees this week, would pave the way for  broad economic growth “by moving from an era of borrow and  spend to one where we save and invest.”

The Congressional Budget Office projects under Obama’s  budget plan the deficit for fiscal 2009 will be just over $1.8  trillion and for fiscal 2010 will be almost $1.4 trillion.

Mindful of the challenges he faces, Obama tempered his  economic outlook. “There are no quick fixes and there are no  silver bullets,” he said.

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