February 9th, 2009
08:09 PM ET
7 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. Shawn

    I think it is time for President Obama to move from the election mindset to letting people know he is the President. I don't think the people want to here the election speech, be a president, be a leader, and be a bit more bold. Whether people like him or not, agree with him or not, voted for him or not, he is our president, this is who we the people elected and he and his administration has put together a plan that they strongly feel will move our country forward. I'm tired of hearing about the last eight years and what this administration has inherited, move forward! Talk is cheap, time to make change, do what it takes to get it done.

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

    please ask pres. : How many jobs will be created NOT HOW MANY WILL BE SAVED?

    Question 2: Will the jobs be for IVY League Educated people like myself who have lost our jobs or do we have to become ditch diggers or Weatherizers for buidings.

    Question 3: Why are we getting an approval on money now that won't be spent for 2 years and not needed for present day crisis?

    February 9, 2009 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  3. Ray Ray

    Pork knows now skin color, ideology, or political bent. This bill is laden with PORK and needs to be killed.

    Isn't it telling... the ones favoring the huge PORK bill: Democrats.

    Those voting against it: Republicans.

    Pork doesn't know Dems... but Dems love Pork!!

    February 9, 2009 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  4. America

    Yes-we shall see.
    How about more "salary freezes" for people in positions of power, and dumb sports individual's!? After all it's not like they are saving lives or finding cures for diseases! That way all us hard working families, white collars, (non CEO's,CFO's, etc.) and the poor can have more to earn and in turn spend??? There's and idea for the President and all those politician's out there. STOP making the rich richer and the poor poorer.

    American Citizen

    February 9, 2009 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  5. been there

    Debbie, I'm with you. only mine is a migraine. and when will he actually answer a question rather than just use it for a springboard for more of the same?

    February 9, 2009 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  6. Norman U

    I own a small restaurant & if my customers do not start to feel better about things I won't make it and that means 15 employees that work and have health insurance. Lets give the president a chance to help.
    Tax cuts do not get down to real people for years. Let people spend money again.

    February 9, 2009 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  7. Drezy

    "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."

    As a non-american living elsewhere it's amazing all the hate and negativity that I read on these boards. Here the rest of the world thought the US might be different, guess it's not really looking that way. American's are so scared to owe money to any other country, as if it would endanger your soveirgnty? You have some of the highest unemployment, crime, homeless, and just plain unhappy people in the world. Believe me when I say there are far better standards of livings in other countries, with far more rights and equalities for it's people. The biggest facade you face is that American's always want to be the ones on top without facing the consequences. Guess what...all those Hummers, fast food, violence on TV, over paid CEO's, it's all catching up with you. It's sad seeing such a great and beautiful countries resources and people being exploited the way it has been in the past. If you want to lead the world in any form or fashion, lead by example...or else it might be time for the rest of the world to find a new coach.

    February 9, 2009 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  8. Lorraine

    I would heartily suggest that unless and IF the CNN pundits have figured a way to design a superior plan to relieve our global fiscal situation other than this stimulus plan, unless you have in hand a newly proffered plan that includes DETAILED steps and an explanation of process, then you should support this move which would be in the best interest of the nation. I am a small business owner, I could CARE LESS about itty bitty tax cuts because in the allowable amounts discussed......THAT'S NOT 'GONNA SAVE MY BUSINESS............commerce will save my business...............so government intervention is the ONLY real means to forward that process. If you disagree.....WHAT'S YOUR PLAN???

    February 9, 2009 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  9. J Gibson

    I'm a Republican, and I am willing to give Obama my support, however this stimulus package is a disaster ( will cause a disaster)! I am so sad to some of the details in the package. Shame on Congress and Pres Obama!!!

    February 9, 2009 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  10. DanFango

    I wish it were amusing instead of sickening to watch Repubiclowns like Shelby bloviate about deficits, when he and his cronies have already doubled our debt.
    These guys are intellectually, and morally bankrupt.
    I've had enough of their bankrupt policies and bankrupt talk.
    They have put us in deep VooDoo.

    February 9, 2009 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  11. SuperDuperIndependent

    Just because something needs to be done doesn't mean Obama automatically knows what that is and that anyone who questions our "Dear Leader" is hoping he fails. Rather, if we are going to act lets act responsibly not this blind overreaching by the neophyte president. He looks so clueless and pathetic trying to "scare" everyone into HIS way by signing their life away. Talk about letting expediency (not to mention partisan politics) get in the way of the best. To try and shut off all discussion and ramrod HIS plan through is exactly what Bush would have done, but now that the shoe is on the other foot all the kool-aid drinkers are A-Okay with that. Hypocrisy at it's finest.

    February 9, 2009 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
  12. Glenda

    For the past 8 years the citizens of this country were screwed by Bush. Just give him a chance. We don't know if he has the answers but he is trying to get us out of the mess Bush created.

    February 9, 2009 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
  13. stayathomemom

    All I have to say is Target and Costco are still packed! I have to wait in line every time I go to the mall.... is it really as bad as he says? My family is better now than it was last year!

    February 9, 2009 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
  14. Ken P.

    We'll know in six months if this was a huge success or failure. We need to see some progress on the economy by then or Obama's numbers will start to crater.

    February 9, 2009 08:33 pm at 8:33 pm |
  15. Ardyth - Canada

    Wow – the contrast between your former president Bush carrying out a news conference and Obama speaking now so intelligently is astonishing. I keep getting unwelcome flash-backs of Bush-isms.

    February 9, 2009 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  16. Greg

    Will the president and congress guarantee that these jobs being created are only filled by American citizens and not H2A, H2B or any other immigrant workers?

    February 9, 2009 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  17. Wendy G.

    If it were up to the Republicans, we'd just stay stuck in the downward spiraling mess we've "enjoyed" for the past eight years! Let's move on for crying out loud! OK President Obama, let's do it !!!!

    February 9, 2009 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  18. Proud American

    And I'm freezing my you know what off. Why are so many republicans so hateful? are they trying to make americans forget that their responsible?

    February 9, 2009 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
  19. Brianne

    All I see are bitter posters and those that really don't want to help their neighbors, family, and friends.

    Oh, and Obama flying in a jet makes sense because he is the president, whereas the 3 auto makers are not...grow up people.

    February 9, 2009 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
  20. Worried Democrat

    BUSH was WRONG when he went on a spending spree for the last 8 years and now OBAMA is WRONG by doing the exact same thing.....going on a TRILLION DOLLAR SPENDING SPREE.

    I thought I voted against Bush and his policies.....so why are we getting more Bush?

    February 9, 2009 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
  21. World Watcher

    It's been three weeks since Obama took office ... the economy has been in the tank for many years through lax legislation and oversight of the banking system. It's time to pull together and support Obama's decision. To sit by and do nothing, or bicker, will not put people back to work or stimulate the economy.

    If those who oppose it would offer a plan, any plan, we'd listen. But to do nothing but say "no" is not the answer.

    Be part of the solution, not the problem.

    February 9, 2009 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
  22. bjarch

    Obama was already elected, why does he sound like he is still campaining? He should keep the answers to questions short and sweet, stop using the "I" word, gice some credit to others, and be more careful with his answers about issues such as Irtan

    February 9, 2009 08:36 pm at 8:36 pm |
  23. Glo

    Pres Obama is right. Its time to stop campaigning and start governing!

    February 9, 2009 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
  24. Incredible

    To Justified Cynic....living with the Republicans the last 8 yrs been evidence of all the hardship this country needs for a good long while! Our last president made such a shambles of our country until it will take short of a miracle to get us going in the right direction!!!

    Stop complaining....roll up your sleeves and find a way to make a difference!!!!!!!!!

    February 9, 2009 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
  25. fresh thinkers

    Obama has been in office less than one month. Have we forgotten who got us in this mess. Either way it doesn't matter, we are all in the same boat now. Let's all row together or we will all sink together.

    February 9, 2009 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
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