After another week of bad economic news, President Barack Obama is
asking Americans to back his sweeping plan to fix the economy. The
president used his weekly address to rally support for his initiatives
to reform health care, create jobs, unfreeze the credit market and help
homeowners avoid foreclosure.
President Obama started his weekly talk by acknowledging the latest discouraging numbers.
"Yesterday, we learned that the economy lost another 651,000 jobs in the month of February, which brings the total number of jobs lost in this recession to 4.4 million. The unemployment rate has now surpassed 8 percent, the highest rate in a quarter-century," he said.
But Mr. Obama said he took office in January knowing that the crisis could not be solved easily or quickly. And he expressed optimism that with the right corrective actions the U.S. will emerge stronger and more prosperous than before.
The president outlined what he has done in the past week to restore the housing market, including implementing his plan to let lenders work with borrowers to refinance or restructure mortgages, which he says will help as many as four million homeowners avoid foreclosure.
"On Wednesday, the Departments of Treasury and Housing and Urban Development released the guidelines that lenders will use for lowering mortgage payments. This plan is now at work," he said.
Mr. Obama said his Consumer and Business Lending Initiative will generate as much as $1 trillion of new lending, to unfreeze credit markets and stabilize the financial markets.
The president also promoted his initiative to reform the U.S. health care system, which is the most expensive in the world and leaves an estimated 48 million people without insurance. He hosted a health care summit on Thursday to solicit ideas on how to fix the system.
"Our ideas and opinions about how to achieve this reform will vary, but our goal must be the same: quality, affordable health care for every American that no longer overwhelms the budgets of families, businesses and our government," he said.
Opposition Republicans have complained that Mr. Obama's proposed federal budget, and especially his ideas for reforming health care, are too costly. In the weekly Republican response, Congressman Roy Blunt said one plan the president is considering, giving Americans the option of buying medical coverage through a government plan, could do more harm than good.
"I am concerned that if the government steps in it will eventually push out the private health care plans millions of Americans enjoy today. This could cause your employer to simply stop offering coverage, hoping the government will pick up the slack," said Blunt.
Mr. Obama also said his administration will overhaul the way the government hands out private contracts, to reduce waste.