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Obama: 'Day of Reckoning Has Arrived' on Economy

U.S. President Barack Obama says the "day of reckoning has arrived" for the United States economy, but sought to reassure Americans the country will emerge from these uncertain times stronger than ever.

In his first speech to a joint session of Congress late Tuesday, President Obama called on Americans to pull together to confront challenges and to take responsibility for the country's future.

President Obama said the economic stimulus plan he signed recently is a first step toward recovery. But he said more action is needed, particularly in health care, energy and education reform. He also said more money will be needed to help troubled U.S. banks.

Mr. Obama said while the government is spending billions on the economy, he will cut other areas of the federal budget. He said members of his administration have already identified two trillion dollars in savings over the next decade.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal was to give the Republican response. Excerpts from his comments call Mr. Obama's $787-billion economic stimulus package "irresponsible," saying it contains unnecessary spending that will drive up government debt.

U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said Tuesday the U.S. economy is in a "severe" contraction, and he warned that the recession could continue into 2010 unless government policies are able to stabilize markets.

In addition to promoting the stimulus bill, the president also said the government plans to help struggling homeowners refinance their mortgages. And he added that he wants to cut the federal deficit in half by 2013.

New economic reports Tuesday underlined the difficulties facing policymakers. Consumer confidence fell to another record low, and home prices dropped at a record rate.

Two new polls by news organizations, the New York Times and the Washington Post, say so far, President Obama gets high marks from a majority of Americans.