LIANE HANSEN, Host:
The Obama White House is again focusing its attention on the economy. The administration has rolled out a new plan it says will help create jobs and dig out of the recession. The economy was the primary focus of the president's White House press conference this past week.
BARACK OBAMA: Millions of Americans are still looking for work. Millions of families are struggling to pay their bills or the mortgage. And so these proposals are meant to both accelerate job growth in the short term and strengthen the economy in the long run.
HANSEN: For more, NPR News analyst Juan Williams joins us in the Washington, D.C. studio. Good morning, Juan.
JUAN WILLIAMS: Good morning, Liane.
HANSEN: So the president is pushing for tax breaks for small businesses and increased federal spending on the transportation system. But, boy, he really is avoiding that word stimulus.
WILLIAMS: He is and...
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
WILLIAMS: For the longest time, Republicans have had free reign to beat up on him on the economic narrative and they seem to have succeeded, because most Americans don't think the economy is in good shape. And it's not just unemployment numbers, they just have a generally downcast attitude about the economic direction of the country.
HANSEN: But in this political climate, is it a convincing argument that the GOP is obstructionist, when it comes to fixing the economy?
WILLIAMS: One last thing on this is that for the longest time, some people thought, well, let's blame President Bush. But what's happened is that more and more Americans now are saying President Obama has been in office sufficiently long that he has to take increased responsibility.
HANSEN: You know, there's one word that makes Americans prick up there ears and that's taxes. And there is a debate going on: Republicans want to extend the Bush-era tax cuts for high-income households; President Obama wants tax cuts for all but the wealthiest Americans. Distill that debate.
WILLIAMS: So this is sort of complex. But the basic idea is, if you listened to President Obama on Friday, he said, you know what, it's not an effective stimulative tool - that it's not going to exactly spur the economy in such a way that it would compensate for the lost income that adds to the national deficit. So that's his position, why won't Republicans work with me on the idea of giving a tax break to the 97 percent instead of standing in my way? He says it's political.
HANSEN: And from a political standpoint, is the Obama administration's renewed focus on the economy, is it getting through to the people who are voting? Or is it too little, too late?
WILLIAMS: That's the heart and soul of it, Liane.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
WILLIAMS: But I think for many Americans, the question is, why haven't you been about jobs all along? Why were you on health care? Why are you arguing about Cap and Trade? You know, look at all the issues that he's been handling - and he's got a long list of legislative accomplishments - but people say the economy is job one; that's the number one issue. And can his late surge here, if you will, on the economy make up for the fact that he hasn't been engaged all along?
HANSEN: NPR News analyst Juan Williams. Juan, thanks a lot for coming in.
WILLIAMS: Pleasure to be here, Liane.
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