WHITE HOUSE —
Facing his lowest public approval ratings yet, President Barack Obama traveled to New Orleans, Louisiana, to speak about continuing challenges to U.S. economic growth.
Facing increased skepticism stemming from the flawed implementation of his health care reform law, Obama, using the port of New Orleans as a backdrop, returned to favorite themes to underscore economic successes and remaining challenges to the economy.
Successes include 7.8 million jobs added, declining deficits and healthcare costs, a recovered auto industry and a stronger housing market.
Challenges include rebuilding the dilapidated infrastructure, providing more support for the middle class, and making investments in education. Another challenge: what the president calls the "constant cycle of manufactured crises and self-inflicted wounds" from Washington.
One of those wounds was the 16-day partial government shutdown triggered by political battles with Republicans over spending and the need to raise the debt limit.
"Over the summer our economy grew at its fastest pace in a year. That's the good news. The bad news is that the very day the economic quarter ended, some folks in Washington decided to shut down the government and default on America's obligations for the first time in more than 200 years," he said. "And it's like, the gears of our economy, every time they are just about to take off, suddenly somebody taps the brakes and says, not so fast."
Obama said there is no question that the shutdown harmed job growth, and could end up affecting other economic data still to come. The Labor Department says 204,000 jobs were added in October, but the overall unemployment rate still rose to 7.3 percent.
The president again highlighted his goals of increasing U.S. exports and increasing productivity and competitiveness. He called on Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform, though political analysts agree that is not likely to happen this year.
Obama's Friday visits to New Orleans and Miami, Florida, are part of a series of trips across the country to seek public support for his policies and raise money for Democrats.
But recent opinion polls have not been kind to the president: A Pew Research Center poll out Friday put his overall job rating at 41 percent
, a 14-point decline from nearly a year ago.
In the poll, 53 percent of respondents disapproved of Obama's job performance, while sixty-five percent disapproved of his performance on the economy.
In an NBC News interview Thursday, the president apologized to Americans for problems afflicting the web site used to enroll in insurance under Obamacare, the health-care reform law that took effect in October.
Obama has had to revise a pledge he made before Obamacare enrollment began, that Americans who liked their existing insurance plans could keep them. Since the law took effect, about five percent of Americans, amounting to millions of people, received cancellation notices from their insurance companies.
On Friday he again defended Obamacare against attacks by Republicans, who have repeatedly attempted to de-fund or dismantle it, saying Obamacare was the right thing to do for Americans.