February 9th, 2009
08:09 PM ET
3 years ago

Obama: This is the 'winter of our hardship'

President Obama's opening remarks at this evening's prime-time press conference, as released by the White House:

Good evening. Before I take your questions tonight, I’d like to speak briefly about the state of our economy and why I believe we need to put this recovery plan in motion as soon as possible.

I took a trip to Elkhart, Indiana today. Elkhart is a place that has lost jobs faster than anywhere else in America. In one year, the unemployment rate went from 4.7% to 15.3%. Companies that have sustained this community for years are shedding jobs at an alarming speed, and the people who’ve lost them have no idea what to do or who to turn to.

They can’t pay their bills and they’ve stopped spending money. And because they’ve stopped spending money, more businesses have been forced to lay off more workers. Local TV stations have started running public service announcements that tell people where to find food banks, even as the food banks don’t have enough to meet the demand.

As we speak, similar scenes are playing out in cities and towns across the country. Last Monday, more than 1,000 men and women stood in line for 35 firefighter jobs in Miami. Last month, our economy lost 598,000 jobs, which is nearly the equivalent of losing every single job in the state of Maine. And if there’s anyone out there who still doesn’t believe this constitutes a full-blown crisis, I suggest speaking to one of the millions of Americans whose lives have been turned upside down because they don’t know where their next paycheck is coming from.

That is why the single most important part of this Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Plan is the fact that it will save or create up to 4 million jobs. Because that is what America needs most right now.

It is absolutely true that we cannot depend on government alone to create jobs or economic growth. That is and must be the role of the private sector. But at this particular moment, with the private sector so weakened by this recession, the federal government is the only entity left with the resources to jolt our economy back to life. It is only government that can break the vicious cycle where lost jobs lead to people spending less money which leads to even more layoffs. And breaking that cycle is exactly what the plan that’s moving through Congress is designed to do.

When passed, this plan will ensure that Americans who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own can receive greater unemployment benefits and continue their health care coverage. We will also provide a $2,500 tax credit to folks who are struggling to pay the cost of their college tuition, and $1000 worth of badly-needed tax relief to working and middle-class families. These steps will put more money in the pockets of those Americans who are most likely to spend it, and that will help break the cycle and get our economy moving.

But as we learned very clearly and conclusively over the last eight years, tax cuts alone cannot solve all our economic problems – especially tax cuts that are targeted to the wealthiest few Americans. We have tried that strategy time and time again, and it has only helped lead us to the crisis we face right now.

That is why we have come together around a plan that combines hundreds of billions in tax cuts for the middle-class with direct investments in areas like health care, energy, education, and infrastructure – investments that will save jobs, create new jobs and new businesses, and help our economy grow again – now and in the future.

More than 90% of the jobs created by this plan will be in the private sector. These will not be make-work jobs, but jobs doing the work that America desperately needs done. Jobs rebuilding our crumbling roads and bridges, and repairing our dangerously deficient dams and levees so that we don’t face another Katrina. They will be jobs building the wind turbines and solar panels and fuel-efficient cars that will lower our dependence on foreign oil, and modernizing a costly health care system that will save us billions of dollars and countless lives. They’ll be jobs creating 21st century classrooms, libraries, and labs for millions of children across America. And they’ll be the jobs of firefighters, teachers, and police officers that would otherwise be eliminated if we do not provide states with some relief.

After many weeks of debate and discussion, the plan that ultimately emerges from Congress must be big enough and bold enough to meet the size of the economic challenge we face right now. It is a plan that is already supported by businesses representing almost every industry in America; by both the Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO. It contains input, ideas, and compromises from both Democrats and Republicans. It also contains an unprecedented level of transparency and accountability, so that every American will be able to go online and see where and how we’re spending every dime. What it does not contain, however, is a single pet project, and it has been stripped of the projects members of both parties found most objectionable.

Despite all of this, the plan is not perfect. No plan is. I can’t tell you for sure that everything in this plan will work exactly as we hope, but I can tell you with complete confidence that a failure to act will only deepen this crisis as well as the pain felt by millions of Americans. My administration inherited a deficit of over $1 trillion, but because we also inherited the most profound economic emergency since the Great Depression, doing too little or nothing at all will result in an even greater deficit of jobs, incomes, and confidence. That is a deficit that could turn a crisis into a catastrophe. And I refuse to let that happen. As long as I hold this office, I will do whatever it takes to put this country back to work.

I want to thank the members of Congress who’ve worked so hard to move this plan forward, but I also want to urge all members of Congress to act without delay in the coming week to resolve their differences and pass this plan.

We find ourselves in a rare moment where the citizens of our country and all countries are watching and waiting for us to lead. It is a responsibility that this generation did not ask for, but one that we must accept for the sake of our future and our children’s. The strongest democracies flourish from frequent and lively debate, but they endure when people of every background and belief find a way to set aside smaller differences in service of a greater purpose. That is the test facing the United States of America in this winter of our hardship, and it is our duty as leaders and citizens to stay true to that purpose in the weeks and months ahead. After a day of speaking with and listening to the fundamentally decent men and women who call this nation home, I have full faith and confidence that we can. And with that, I’ll take your questions.


Filed under: Obama press conference
soundoff (86 Responses)
  1. Justfied Cynic

    Ha! You haven't seen anything yet. Give the Democrats a few more years in power and you'll see what real hardship feels like.

    February 9, 2009 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  2. Worried Democrat

    This fear mongering is not working.....and it is not what we voted for!

    We are AGAINST THIS STIMULUS bill because it is focused on political agendas instead of helping us with the Housing Crisis.

    STOP wasting OUR MONEY!

    The first Bailout cost us $700 BILLION
    The Stimulus is another $800 BILLION
    and tomorrow the Treasury will announce another BAILOUT....where is this going to end?

    My concern is that Congress is not providing Americans with all the details on this bill. WE are PAYING FOR IT.....so we should know exactly what we are getting for our dollar.

    Congress might not care but we do.........and we will remember come 2010!

    February 9, 2009 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  3. Griff

    "Smaller Differences"... Your words. Small than yours... You started this downflow. You Obama... You threatened the Big Bussines with Tax increases... You scared them away months ago... The will not come back as long as yopu are in Office... Strangle America to keep an Idiot... Is Wrong...

    February 9, 2009 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  4. Worried Democrat

    It's not just about how big or bold the plan is.....it's about HOW SMART is the plan.

    Sadly, the trend with Congress has been more towards the DUMB side, as is evident by the Bank Bailout mess.

    February 9, 2009 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |
  5. Anonymous

    Let's rise up and ACT now!!!

    February 9, 2009 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |
  6. Debby

    We are watching the dog show. Listening to Obama talking in circles gives me a headache.

    February 9, 2009 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |
  7. Ernie in LA

    It's really funny that the very people that make the laws and decisions for the people in need are the people who are not. We need some "poor" politicians.

    February 9, 2009 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  8. chris from STL.

    President was very eloquent in his speech in laying out his ideas ...

    February 9, 2009 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  9. bob ghetti

    Welcome to the Obama world. Socialism, father goverment solving all the problems in our lives and controlling our future.Its very sad to see the great America become France 2.

    February 9, 2009 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  10. madmuttal

    how insprirng is he!!!!! OBAMA is our next FDR....

    February 9, 2009 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  11. Steve

    The President doesn't have a clue, regrettably.

    February 9, 2009 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  12. Veronica

    I'm very glad Obama is addressing the stimulus plan and is taking away the debate from the Republicans. I can't believe press has given them so much air time. The Republicans have no credibility after they drove this economy to the ground. We elected Obama to do what he promess not to negotiate with Republicans and accept their failed policies.

    February 9, 2009 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  13. Guillermo Borges

    Let's get past bickering, the "I need to be heard" mentality, support our President, and support our citizens by implementing a stimulus plan immediately.

    February 9, 2009 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  14. Bob

    What was the cost for Obama and his onterage to fly to Elkhart Indiana?
    Could the goverment have spent that money better by just giving that same amount to the people of Elkhart?

    Congress sure beat up on the Big 3 auto makers for doing the same thing flying their jets to DC a few months ago.

    Just seems like a double standard, Obama would like to see CEO's and employees that he deems overpaid make ppay concessions in businesses that are in financial distress. Shouldn't the goverment be doing the same thing since the goverment is so far in debt and will taking more on?

    February 9, 2009 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  15. vernyuy

    Republicans would rather see the country fall into catastrophe than have it be saved by a black man or sound "liberal" policy.

    They hope that if they obstruct progress pushing failed Bushy ideas, the country will suffer and the democrats will be blamed so that republicans can be elected in 2010

    February 9, 2009 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  16. Judy from PA

    Fear Mongering.

    February 9, 2009 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  17. Rick

    Elkhart has it problems, but I dont know how you call that the midwest, then what is Iowa the west and what about the rest of the country, we all have our problems but quit trying to sell a package which will bankrupt our kids and act as a leader, Mr Obama you have problems with judgement and with peopleyou pick so fix that before you try to change my life and keepyour hands out of my pockets, the American people dont want your taxation games.

    February 9, 2009 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  18. Norman U

    It seams to me the Republicans just want any democrat president to fail

    February 9, 2009 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  19. Frank, Las Vegas

    Yes we all need this. It's time for the Republicans to put aside their political games and do what's right for America. They should try to remember that America rejected their plans and policies for a new direction. I truly hope they do, but I know they won't. If they do not see the light soon, there will be be far fewer of them in 2010, so it's their choice. God bless America!

    February 9, 2009 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  20. highvoltage

    Shouldnt we put this to a public vote.

    February 9, 2009 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  21. chris from STL.

    Bob .... you are an idiot. Don't think you are an American.

    February 9, 2009 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  22. Patti

    Why was a question regarding Iran fielded, when the topic was the economy and the economic stimulus package?

    February 9, 2009 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  23. Sue M

    You don't know there is a recession until it hits you and your family.......so if you still have a job, health care, a home to live in, food to feed your family, money to pay your bills then you don't know that there is a recession going on.........but not all people are as fortunate as you or I, they are hurting they have nothing left and don't know where to turn or what to do...........and you Republicans want to keep haggling over this stimulus package.......you say it won't do anything to help the economy, well how do you know that? It's better to do something then nothing at all.........It's not Obama and the Democrats that are spending your kids future, you Republicans were doing that these last 8 years......so you have no one to blame but yourselves and Bush and for not standing up to Bush and his administration

    February 9, 2009 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  24. highvoltage

    he sounds like a used car salesmen

    February 9, 2009 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  25. Veronica

    Hey Justified Cynic
    It has been under Republican leadership that we had the worst hardship. I can only dream of feeling the hardships we felt in the Clinton years.

    February 9, 2009 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
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