President Barack Obama defended his economic policies during an impromptu appearance Wednesday at a White House summit of key advisers and editors of influential online news sites.
“First of all, I think it’s just important to remember that it’s not like we haven’t been doing anything for the last year,” Obama told the summit, which included Newsmax Editorial Director Steve Coz along with editorial executives from Forbes.com, Kiplinger.com, Yahoo.Finance.com, and The Motley Fool.
The president said the payroll tax cut extension through the end of the year was critical to the country’s economic recovery and the addition of 4 million jobs over the past few years.
“Obviously from my perspective, our ability to get the payroll tax extended through the end of this year was a gauntlet because it strengthened or at least solidified a recovery,” he added.
The president said the Jobs Act, which he signed into law Thursday, should make it easier for start-ups to get financing.
He went on: “There are a number of measures that I’m still going to be pushing for and a lot of it will depend on what happens in the election.
“There’s no doubt, for example, that this country could greatly benefit from a major rebuilding of roads, bridges, ports, high-speed Internet, high-speed rail.”
Obama said that the United States has “historically low interest rates” and construction workers “who are dying to get back to work.”
He said Congress needs to take action to expand opportunities for struggling homeowners to refinance their mortgages, “that would save us $3,000 a year for millions of families across America,” and help stabilize the housing market.
With respect to the burgeoning national debt, the president said he has already signed into law “as big a reduction in spending as we’ve seen in a very long time” and declared that there is not much room for additional cuts in discretionary spending.
“We've got $1 trillion locked in. We’ve got another $1 trillion that we’re going to have to either come up with or it’s an item for sequestration — so you’ve got over $2 trillion in deficit reduction that’s already taken place,” he said.
“There is not much more room for deficit reduction on the discretionary spending side. We pretty much tapped that out.”
In a warning for congressional Republicans, Obama said “until we get some sort of movement from Republican members of Congress that we can’t just cut our way out of this problem, I think it’s going to be difficult for us to make more significant progress.”
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