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Obama: Recovery Will Take Patience

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel. This will take time. That was the message tonight from President Barack Obama, talking about the recession that has lasted more than a year now and shows little sign of improving. The president held his second primetime news conference in the East Room of the White House, fielding questions for nearly an hour. And as expected, the economy dominated that hour. NPR's Ron Elving is with me in the studio. And Ron, let's start with the idea of sacrifice. The president was asked why he hadn't asked the American people to sacrifice in this time of economic hardship. Here's what he said.

President BARACK OBAMA: Folks are sacrificing left and right. I mean, you've got a lot of parents who are cutting back on everything to make sure that their kids can still go to college. You've got workers who are deciding to cut an entire day - and entire day's worth of pay so that their fellow co-workers aren't laid off.

SIEGEL: Here's a president who's sometimes been criticized for not being optimistic or upbeat enough, and sometimes been criticized for chuckling too much. What do you think of his tone about how bad things are and how people are sacrificing?

ELVING: This seemed to be something that had been anticipated, both by the president and his team, that there would be this tension, and that he would try to strike a new equipoise with respect to that. And he, in this particular instance, first talked about another portion of the question, reserving his shot at that have the American people been asked to sacrifice question to the end, and then he hit it pretty hard. He said, yes, they've been asked to sacrifice. This economy has hurt everyone.

SIEGEL: Now on the matter of the budget, the president said that his budget proposal is inseparable from the recovery. He acknowledged that the budget that he handed over to Congress may not look like the one Congress ultimately asks him to sign. And he took issue with critics who say that the budget and the math behind it are, at best, unrealistic.

Pres. OBAMA: None of us know exactly what's going to happen six or eight or 10 years from now. Here's what I do know: If we don't tackle energy, if we don't improve our education system, if we drive down the costs of health care, if we're not making serious investments in science and technology and our infrastructure, then we won't grow 2.6 percent. We won't grow 2.2 percent. We won't grow.

SIEGEL: What do you think about that, Ron?

ELVING: This is part and parcel of the Obama message. He says my budget is about making the investments that are, themselves, the essence of the ultimate recovery - not just the short-term recovery, but the long-term recovery that will generate the growth that will get us out of all of this debt in the long run. So it's circular, in a positive sense, in his mind.

SIEGEL: Let's listen to one brief and perhaps testy exchange over those AIG bonuses. This was a reporter's question.

Unidentified Man: Why did you wait days to come out and express that outrage?

Pres. OBAMA: I...

Unidentified Man: It seems like that action that was coming out of New York and the Attorney General's office - it took you days to come public with Secretary Geithner and say, look we're outraged. Why did it take so long?

Pres. OBAMA: It took us a couple of days because I like to know what I'm talking about before I speak.

SIEGEL: Because I like to know what I'm talking about before I speak.

ELVING: Yes. And, perhaps, also because there wasn't that much good to say for a little while after the bonuses first came to light. And it is true that Andrew Cuomo, which he never really addressed, has apparently gotten at least 15 of these executives to give back something along the lines of $50 million of these bonuses, which is at least a start in the right direction.

SIEGEL: NPR Washington editor Ron Elving. Ron, thanks a lot.

ELVING: Thank you, Robert. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ron Elving
Ron Elving is Senior Editor and Correspondent on the Washington Desk for NPR News, where he is frequently heard as a news analyst and writes regularly for NPR.org.
Robert Siegel
Prior to his retirement, Robert Siegel was the senior host of NPR's award-winning evening newsmagazine All Things Considered. With 40 years of experience working in radio news, Siegel hosted the country's most-listened-to, afternoon-drive-time news radio program and reported on stories and happenings all over the globe, and reported from a variety of locations across Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, and Asia. He signed off in his final broadcast of All Things Considered on January 5, 2018.
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