Obama urges patience on economy

US president says he is "beginning to see signs of progress" in tackling recession.

    The press conference was Obama's second since taking office in January [AFP]

    Since taking office in January, he has introduced an economic stimulus package, announced a proposed $3.5 trillion budget and pumped hundreds of billions of dollars into the financial markets.

    In depth
    Obama said the budget, which has been criticised by Republicans as too expensive, would create jobs in the renewable energy sector, promote a highly skilled workforce and make healthcare affordable.

    "The budget I submitted to congress will build our economic recovery on a stronger foundation, so that we do not face another crisis like this 10 or 20 years from now," he said.

    Rob Reynolds, Al Jazeera's senior Washington correspondent, said Obama "hammered away at a consistent theme" that although his budget might mean more government borrowing, it was essential to build a sustainable future for the US economy. 

    On Monday, the Obama administration announced its plans to buy up to $1 trillion of banks' so-called toxic assets in a bid to get credit flowing again.

    AIG row

    That move came amid continued public anger at US insurance giant AIG, which paid out millions in bonuses to executives after receiving more than $170bn in government bailout funds.

    Obama has been on a media blitz to sell his administration's economic policies [AFP]
    Obama said he was as angry as anyone at the AIG bonus payments but added: "We can't afford to demonise every investor or entrepreneur who tries to make a profit."

    The US leader said he believed there will be broad support among the public and congress for his proposal to give the US treasury the authority to wind down failing financial firms such as AIG.

    "We should have obtained it much earlier so that any institution that poses a systemic risk that can bring down the financial system, we can handle and we can do it in an orderly fashion, that quarantines it from other institutions," Obama said.

    When asked why he waited days to speak out publicly about the AIG bonus row, Obama said it was because he wanted to know what he was talking about before he spoke.

    Gary Wasserman, a professor of American politics at the Georgetown University in Doha, told Al Jazeera that fixing the economy required much more than cracking the whip on AIG.

    "The bonus problem became a very simple way of understanding economic meltdown. It's about greed, about the bad guys at Wall Street, about the rest of us taking care of them in undeserved ways.

    "People loaded up on a symbolic issue. I think it will pass. There's more problems than giving out a few million dollars in bonuses."

    Middle East peace

    On the Middle East, Obama said peace efforts were not getting any "easier" as Israel continued to build a government under Benyamin Netanyahu of the right-wing Likud party, but said moves towards a peace accord remain "just as necessary".

    The US president said he would continue to strive to achieve peace between Israelis and Palestinians and again called for a two-state solution to the conflict.

    "What we do know is this: That the status quo is unsustainable, that it is critical for us to advance a two-state solution where Israelis and Palestinians can live side by side in their own states with peace and security," he said.

    Obama said his choice of George Mitchell as his Middle East envoy was a signal that he was serious about trying to move the parties towards that goal.

    The US president also spoke out on spiralling drug violence in Mexico, saying he would carefully watch US and Mexican efforts to battle drug cartels along their shared border and "do more", if needed, to win the fight.

    Tuesday's press conference was the latest instalment in a media blitz that Obama has gone on to sell his policies, particularly on the economy, following appearances on a two high profile US television programmes in the past week.

    He also plans to answer questions from the public in an online session on Thursday, "to get a snapshot of what Americans across the country care about", according to a video message on the White House website.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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