Obama defends his strategy and $3.6 trillion budget

The US president defended his recovery plan to tackle the recession at a prime-time press conference in Washington. Congressional committees examine his 3.6-trillion-dollar budget this week.


AFP - US President Barack Obama on Tuesday told his crisis-weary nation he sees signs of economic progress but pleaded for time to navigate out of the worst financial maelstrom in decades.

Obama used a prime-time news conference to tout his 3.6-trillion-dollar budget as the key to national recovery, during an intense week of economic and foreign policy rollouts ahead of his first big trip abroad next week.

The president said his government, in its first two hectic months in office, had framed a comprehensive strategy to attack the 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.

"We'll recover from this recession, but it will take time, it will take patience," Obama said at his second full-blown press conference.

The president said his budget, which opposition Republicans argue will run up huge deficits for years, would create clean energy jobs, promote a highly skilled workforce and make health care affordable.

"That's why this budget is inseparable from this recovery -- because it is what lays the foundation for a secure and lasting prosperity."

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, fresh from outlining long-awaited details of a banking rescue, asked Congress Tuesday for unprecedented powers to seize non-bank financial firms if needed to maintain stability.

Obama anticipated "strong support from the American people and from Congress to provide that authority" so that a non-banking company such as giant insurer American International Group cannot hold the entire economy hostage.

The showpiece White House press event was the culmination of a week-long public relations offensive designed to raise Obama's agenda above the clamor of a row over AIG bonus payments and doubts about his recovery plans.

The news conference followed the president's interviews on iconic network programs "The Tonight Show" and "60 Minutes" and a swing through California last week.

Obama next week takes his first big steps on the world stage at the Group of 20 summit in London on April 2 -- when he will have his first encounters with Chinese President Hu Jintao and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

He will then go to a NATO summit on the France-German border on April 3 and 4, visit the Czech Republic and then go to Turkey in his first visit to a Muslim nation as president.

Obama set the stage for his trip by blitzing global newspapers with an op-ed piece on Tuesday, calling on leaders of global economies to take bold measures to stem worldwide economic turmoil.

"We are living through a time of global economic challenges that cannot be met by half measures or the isolated efforts of any nation," Obama wrote in the commentary published in more than 30 newspapers around the world.

"Now, the leaders of the Group of 20 have a responsibility to take bold, comprehensive and coordinated action that not only jump-starts recovery, but also launches a new era of economic engagement to prevent a crisis like this from ever happening again."

The United States prescribes economic stimulus plans and more financial regulation to respond to the worst global economic slump in generations.

But some European states have warned that going further into debt to stimulate demand may not be the answer and have called for more far-reaching regulatory reform than previously advocated by Washington.

Obama also took on his critics, both Republican and Democratic, who say his budget's focus on long-run challenges such as health care and climate change is diverting attention from the crisis at hand.

"We got to make some tough budgetary choices. What we can't do, though, is sacrifice long-term growth investments that are critical to the future," he said.

The White House meanwhile was expected to preview its new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan later in the week.

Obama said after talks with Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd Tuesday that it was important to stay on the "offense" militarily against a terror threat that was not going away.

But he stressed: "We are also going to have to be much more effective diplomatically, we are going to have to be much more effective on the development front."


Daily newsletterReceive essential international news every morning

Take international news everywhere with you! Download the France 24 app