Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Obama Press Conference Transcript (2-9-09)

Read the complete transcript here. Partial below:

Question: Thank you, Mr. President. Earlier today in Indiana, you said something striking. You said that this nation could end up in a crisis without action that we would be unable to reverse.

Can you talk about what you know or what you're hearing that would lead you to say that our recession might be permanent when others in our history have not? And do you think that you risk losing some credibility or even talking down the economy by using dire language like that?

Obama: No, no, no, no. I think that what I've said is what other economists have said across the political spectrum, which is that, if you delay acting on an economy of this severity, then you potentially create a negative spiral that becomes much more difficult for us to get out of.

We saw this happen in Japan in the 1990s, where they did not act boldly and swiftly enough and, as a consequence, they suffered what was called the lost decade, where essentially, for the entire '90s, they did not see any significant economic growth.

So what I'm trying to underscore is what the people in Elkhart already understand, that this is not your ordinary, run-of-the-mill recession. We are going through the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

We've lost now 3.6 million jobs, but what's perhaps even more disturbing is that almost half of that job loss has taken place over the last three months, which means that the problems are accelerating instead of getting better.

Now, what I said in Elkhart today is what I repeat this evening, which is, I'm absolutely confident that we can solve this problem, but it's going to require us to take some significant, important steps.

Step number one: We have to pass an economic recovery and reinvestment plan. And we've made progress. There was a vote this evening that moved the process forward in the Senate. We already have a House bill that's passed. I'm hoping, over the next several days, that the House and the Senate can reconcile their differences and get that bill on my desk.

There have been criticisms from a bunch of different directions about this bill, so let me just address a few of them.

Some of the criticisms really are with the basic idea that government should intervene at all in this moment of crisis. Now, you have some people, very sincere, who philosophically just think the government has no business interfering in the marketplace. And, in fact, there are several who've suggested that FDR [President Roosevelt] was wrong to interfere back in the New Deal. They're fighting battles that I thought were resolved a pretty long time ago.

Most economists almost unanimously recognize that, even if philosophically you're -- you're wary of government intervening in the economy, when you have the kind of problem we have right now -- what started on Wall Street, goes to Main Street, suddenly businesses can't get credit, they start paring back their investment, they start laying off workers, workers start pulling back in terms of spending -- that, when you have that situation, that government is an important element of introducing some additional demand into the economy.

We stand to lose about $1 trillion worth of demand this year and another trillion next year. And what that means is you've got this gaping hole in the economy.

That's why the figure that we initially came up with of approximately $800 billion was put forward. That wasn't just some random number that I plucked out of -- out of a hat. That was Republican and Democratic, conservative and liberal economists that I spoke to who indicated that, given the magnitude of the crisis and the fact that it's happening worldwide, it's important for us to have a bill of sufficient size and scope that we can save or create 4 million jobs.

That still means that you're going to have some net job loss, but at least we can start slowing the trend and moving it in the right direction.

Now, the recovery and reinvestment package is not the only thing we have to do. It's one leg of the stool. We are still going to have to make sure that we are attracting private capital, get the credit markets flowing again, because that's the lifeblood of the economy.

And so tomorrow my treasury secretary, Tim Geithner, will be announcing some very clear and specific plans for how we are going to start loosening up credit once again.

And that means having some transparency and oversight in the system. It means that we correct some of the mistakes with TARP [Troubled Asset Relief Program] that were made earlier, the lack of consistency, the lack of clarity, in terms of how the program was going to move forward.

It means that we condition taxpayer dollars that are being provided to banks on them showing some restraint when it comes to executive compensation, not using the money to charter corporate jets when they're not necessary.

It means that we focus on housing and how are we going to help homeowners that are suffering foreclosure or homeowners who are still making their mortgage payments, but are seeing their property values decline.

So there are going to be a whole range of approaches that we have to take for dealing with the economy. My bottom line is to make sure that we are saving or creating 4 million jobs, we are making sure that the financial system is working again, that homeowners are getting some relief.

And I'm happy to get good ideas from across the political spectrum, from Democrats and Republicans. What I won't do is return to the failed theories of the last eight years that got us into this fix in the first place, because those theories have been tested, and they have failed. And that's what part of the election in November was all about.

Obama Indiana Townhall Transcript (2-9-09)

Read the complete transcript here. Partial below:

I don’t know if you guys have been noticing, but we’ve had a little debate in Washington over the last week or two about the economy. You know, we tend to take the measure of the economic crisis we face in numbers and statistics.

But when we say that we’ve lost 3.6 million jobs since this recession began, nearly 600,000 in the past month alone, when we say that this area has lost jobs faster than anywhere else in the United States of America, with an unemployment rate of over 15 percent when it was 4.7 percent just last year, when we talk about layoffs in companies like Monaco Coach and Keystone RV and Pilgrim International, companies that have sustained this community for years, we’re not just talking numbers. We’re talking about Ed. We’re talking about the people in the audience here today, people not just in Elkhart, but all across this country.

We’re talking about people who’ve lost their livelihood and don’t know what will take its place. We’re talking about parents who’ve lost their health care and lie awake at night praying their kids don’t get sick. We’re talking about families who’ve lost the home that was the corner, their foundation for their American dream, young people who put that college acceptance letter back in the envelope because they just can’t afford it.

That’s what those numbers and statistics mean. That is the true measure of this economic crisis. Those are the stories I heard when I came to Elkhart six months ago, and those are the stories that I carried with me to the White House.

I have not forgotten them. And I promised you back then that, if elected, I’d do everything I could to help this community recover, and that’s why I came back today, because I intend to keep my promise.


I intend to keep my promise. But, you know, the work is going to be hard. I don’t -- I don’t want to lie to people, and that’s why we’re having a town hall meeting. Because the situation we face could not be more serious.

OBAMA: We have inherited an economic crisis as deep and as dire as any since the Great Depression. Economists from across the spectrum have warned that, if we don’t act immediately, millions of more jobs will be lost.

The national unemployment rates will approach double digits, not just here in Elkhart, all across the country. More people will lose their homes and their health care. And our nation will sink into a crisis that at some point we may be unable to reverse.

So we can’t afford to wait. We can’t wait and see and hope for the best. We can’t posture and bicker and resort to the same failed ideas that got us into this mess in the first place.


That was what this election was all about: The American people rejected those ideas because they hadn’t worked.


You didn’t send us to Washington because you were hoping for more of the same; you sent us there to -- to change things, the expectation that we would act quickly and boldly to carry out change, and that’s exactly what I intend to do as president of the United States of America.


That’s why I put forth a recovery and reinvestment plan that is now before Congress. At its core is a very simple idea: to put Americans back to work doing the work America needs to be done.

Ed -- Ed said it better than anybody could. He said, look, folks in Elkhart, they want to work. Nobody’s looking for a handout. Everybody just wants to be able to get a job that supports a family.

And we’ve got the most productive workers on Earth.


We’ve got the best workers right here in Elkhart, who are willing to put in hard time and do whatever it takes to make sure a company succeeds, but they’ve got to have a chance.

The plan that we’ve put forward will save or create 3 million to 4 million jobs over the next two years, but not just any jobs, jobs that meet the needs we’ve neglected for far too long, jobs that lay the groundwork for long-term economic growth, jobs fixing our schools and computerizing our medical records to save costs and save lives, jobs repairing our roads and our bridges and our levees, jobs investing in renewable energy to help us move towards energy independence.


The plan also calls for immediate tax relief for 95 percent of American workers, so that you, who are being pinched, even if you still have a job, with rising costs while your wages and incomes are flat-lined, you’ll actually have a little bit of extra money at the end of the month to buy the necessities for you and your children.

Now, I know that some of you might be thinking, “Well, all that sounds good. But when are we going to see any of this here in Elkhart? What does all this mean to my family, to my community?”

And those are exactly the kinds of questions you should be asking your president and your government, and today I want to provide some answers. And I want to be as specific as I can.

Number one, this plan will provide for extended unemployment insurance, health care, and other assistance for workers...


... other assistance for workers and families who’ve lost their jobs in this recession. So if you’ve lost your job, for example, under existing law, you can get COBRA -- some of you have heard of COBRA -- but the only problem is, it’s so expensive, it doesn’t do you any good.


So what we’ve said is -- what we’ve said is, we will help subsidize people so they can keep -- at least keep their health insurance while they’re out there looking for a new job. This plan will also -- and what this means is, from the perspective of unemployment insurance, you will have an additional $100 per month in unemployment benefits that will go to more than 450,000 Indiana workers, extended unemployment benefits for another 89,000 folks who’ve been laid off and can’t find work, and job training assistance to help more than 51,000 people here get back on their feet.