NPR logo Obama Tries Refocusing Everyone On Economy


Obama Tries Refocusing Everyone On Economy

President Barack Obama delivers remarks on the economy in the White House Roosevelt Room. Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP hide caption

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Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

Congress' passage and President Barack Obama's signing of landmark financial overhaul legislation was supposed to be the big news this week.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the Ronald Reagan Building where the the signing ceremony was held. The story of ex-USDA official Shirley Sherrod erupted, eclipsing what the White House had hoped everyone would be focused on — the administration's efforts to ease economic anxiety.

Along with that is the continuing bad news for Obama that Americans aren't confident in his handling of the economy. The latest CNN/Opinion Research poll showed that just 42 percent of respondents approved of his management of the economy.

So, on Friday, President Barack Obama came before the cameras to make remarks at the White House in part to refocus Americans on what the president and his political team would rather have them thinking about — everything the administration is doing to boost the economy and Americans hurt by the recession.

In other words, it was his way of signaling that he and his team still live by the old Clinton administration mantra: "It's the economy, stupid."

An excerpt from his remarks:

First, I signed a Wall Street reform bill that will protect consumers and our entire economy from the recklessness and irresponsibility that led to the worst recession since the Great Depression.

It’s a reform that will help us put a stop to the abusive practices of mortgage lenders and credit card companies, and ensure that people get the straight, unvarnished information that they need before they take out a loan or open a credit card. It will bring the shadowy deals that caused the financial crisis into the light of day.

And it will end taxpayer bailouts of Wall Street firms and give shareholders a say on executive compensation.

The need for this reform, by the way, was underscored by the report issued by Ken Feinberg this morning, identifying a number of financial companies that continue to pay out lavish bonuses at the height of the financial crisis even as they accepted billions of dollars in taxpayer assistance.

Second, I signed a law that will improve our ability to crack down on improper payments made by our government.

Every year the government wastes tens of billions of dollars — taxpayer dollars — on erroneous payments to companies that haven't paid their taxes, or to prison inmates, or even to people who died a long time ago.  Today we have the technology to block these payments.

And the law I signed will give us new tools to do so.  I've set a target to save at least $50 billion in — by 2012, savings that are more important today than ever because we simply don't have any money to waste.

Third, we finally overcame the procedural blockade of a partisan minority in the Senate to restore unemployment insurance for about 2.5 million Americans who are out of work and looking for a job.

So, taken together, we made enormous progress this week on Wall Street reform, on making sure that we're eliminating waste and abuse in government, and in providing immediate assistance to people who are out there looking for work.