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. KG

    what is so hard about fixing the economy ,all they have to to is give every American citizen in the US about $200,000.00 apiece and the economy would sky rocket. With the amount of money they are talking about there is plenty. People would buy cars, houses pay there morgages off, go shopping and out to eat again. Isn't that what we need to kick start things.

    February 9, 2009 08:39 pm at 8:39 pm |
  2. vernyuy

    I wish he would not shout when he has a mic on

    February 9, 2009 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  3. Tom

    hey for all you ivy league folks who seem to feel so lost, do something out of the box... LIKE START A BUSINESS, quit busting president obama's chops, he's only doing what he can to help the average person help themselves. He needs to talk like this so the retard republicans on capitol hill will be moved into acting.

    February 9, 2009 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  4. jason, tx

    Obama is a smart man. I think he's doing the best he can with the the crap he's been handed. The Shrub admin screwed everything up. Now, we are paying for it in spades.

    Oh, and Justified Cynic... give it a rest.

    February 9, 2009 08:45 pm at 8:45 pm |
  5. Why Not

    Thank God for a President that can speak in complete sentences and does NOT mispronounce words!! Let him talk as much as he wants – we all need to hear his answers.

    February 9, 2009 08:45 pm at 8:45 pm |
  6. TjayeInLA

    Vernyuy You hit the nail right on the head.

    February 9, 2009 08:45 pm at 8:45 pm |
  7. LINDA HOOPER

    The first bailour cost us billions of our tax money. Give us some of our own money be rewriting our mortage loans rather it is investment property or our primer homes. Let this stimulus package have that bill in it. I am glad The President telling the voters who in Washington really care about the voters. Please rewrite our home mortage

    February 9, 2009 08:47 pm at 8:47 pm |
  8. Rudy

    So the (R) Senators gave Bush two wars which cost the Americans trillions of dollars, but refused to side with Obama to put America back of track with just $800 billions.

    Who's making sense here....republicans? I don't think so.

    February 9, 2009 08:47 pm at 8:47 pm |
  9. Proud Democrat who is against this Stimulus

    This Stimulus bills is NOT HELPING those of us who are hurting most!

    We need more focus on helping people suffering with the Housing Crisis and people who need jobs.

    Automating the health car industry is not going to give us more jobs.....it's going to take more jobs away.

    Congress should be required to provide a VERY DETAILED report on how every single dollar is going to be spent and how many jobs are going created. The numbers given out recently are being pulled from the air and have little details behind it.

    February 9, 2009 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  10. MS

    To Greg at 8:34

    Urge your representatives to vote for the E Verify. It allows any company to verify that a prospective employees Social Security Number is valid.

    February 9, 2009 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  11. Independant Thinker

    Obama could SAVE over 1 million jobs in less that 6 months IF, he would just turn off the taps of the H1-B visas which are allowing over 150,000 immigrants into this country EACH MONTH.

    February 9, 2009 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
  12. J in Oakland

    Let's just settle for a second. Republicans will naturally oppose anything the Democrats put out there ... that's their job: the opposition. That doesn't necessarily mean they are right.

    Democrats are riding the high of the decisive victory in November ... that's their right: they are the victors. That doesn't necessarily mean they are wrong.

    Let's leave our partisan feelings aside and JUST GET IT DONE! Right or wrong doing nothing is not an option.

    February 9, 2009 08:55 pm at 8:55 pm |
  13. Ja Islan

    just. cynic. – no sir, 8 years of bush says it all. B. Ghetti – Let's just call it France 2 and get on with it then. Sue M. – I see recession everywhere too. God Bless America.

    February 9, 2009 08:56 pm at 8:56 pm |
  14. heiner moers

    This stimulus package is useless since it probably takes 9 months before we see any impact.

    We should agree on half the size and only projects which are showel ready garanteed now. Let's do the second half of this huge package in half a year under less pressure with more bebate and more sensible ideas.

    It's crazy to vote for $800+ Bill. overnight. Noboby could have read this book of "Summary of Pork Barrel Leftovers".

    February 9, 2009 08:57 pm at 8:57 pm |
  15. bah bah

    Bush did not do it alone. Never vote for an incumbent. Imprison they guy from CountryWide. And the tax crooks Geithner and Daschle.

    Obama said he'd be transparent. Why has the Fed promised 8 trillion dollars without saying where it went? When is Obama really going to create change? Seems the same action with the only change being in party rhetoric to me. Double standards still in place.

    "Mission accomplished"

    February 9, 2009 09:00 pm at 9:00 pm |
  16. Proud Democrat who is against this Stimulus

    Before we give out any more money we should have something in WRITING that ensures this won't be a repeat of the bank bail out.

    This is OUR MONEY and since WE will be paying for it we deserve ALL the details before any more of out money is committed to any Stimulus Bill.

    By the way all this complaining by President Obama about the Bush Administration is starting to make him sound like he is only President of the Democrats and not the Republicans and Independents.!

    Additionally the OBAMA administration is making the same mistakes the BUSH administration made by spending like a bunch of impulsive teenagers.

    So get a grip, get a plan, provide us with the details and stop THROWING OUR MONEY OUT THE WINDOW.

    We will support a stimulus if it is the right one!

    February 9, 2009 09:00 pm at 9:00 pm |
  17. Linda

    We need to stimulate the economy by giving the working households (including those that have lost their jobs) the money instead of banks and corporations. If every tax paying household were to receive federally backed vouchers to be used to pay off, pay down, or buy a house we would really be stimulating the economy. We should also give, oh wait, it's our money to begin with, these households the money (vouchers), backed by the government to purchase cars manufactured in the US or pay off loans for cars.

    If the households do not use the money (vouchers) the government keeps the money. If these households use the vouchers they immediately stimulate the economy plus freeing up their finances to purchase additional items stimulating the economy even more.

    Slowly but surely we need to follow through becoming energy independent, improving our super structures and improving our image abroad while fairly increasing trade tariffs, encouraging tax breaks to businesses that solely operate, including corporation addresses, in the United States.

    February 9, 2009 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  18. TomL

    I have a problem with a president that can't look the nation in the eye. Replay the whole address and you'll see he didn't look into the camera more than about one percent of the time. Bush II, Clinton, Bush I, Reagan, all the previous presidents know to look in the camera. I think he completely failed to connect with America tonight. A small but important detail.

    Second issue is he failed to answer the questions. Get off the campaign trail stupid!!! You won!!! Answer the reporters questions!!!! Get off the campaign speeches!!!

    February 9, 2009 09:06 pm at 9:06 pm |
  19. NOT THE KINDA GUY TO SAY I TOLD YOU SO, BUT I TOLD YOU SO

    LOL. Reading you idiots makes me laugh. Please dont pretend you know anything about the economy. Bush did not get us into this mess, all he did was delay what the democrats in the house and senate had done. This mess originated with Clinton was made worse by the liberal lending policies of the congressional democrats. And here is a history lesson to all you idiots in college, since history is not tauught anymore. FDR and his similar policies extended the great depression and if not for WW2 we would still have been in it. Leave the economy alone. We are in this mess because people keep F@#$ing with it. And listening to this guy tonight actually makes Bush look like a great orator. He look shaky he seemed unprepared and utterly lacking in knowledge of thwe issues. No teleprompter nobody holding this boys hand.

    February 9, 2009 09:06 pm at 9:06 pm |
  20. Alice Newman Center Harbor NH

    No ...the Republicans know and love their pork: even McCain was disgusted with GOP "earmarks over the last year."

    The Bridge to Nowhere was a republican pork project and Republican Governor Palin did use pork money to finish the road – to the bridge what will never be built!!

    The GOP think Pell grants are "pork" – we wouldn't want to educate people now would we – then they would never vote GOP!

    All these fiscal people Now want Details? Did matter with the money spent in Iraq, the pallets of money lost, all the no-bid contracts for Halliburton – and millions still unaccounted for – but that's ok – that's what republicans do! Money for big oil & big pharma – nothing for Main Street.

    February 9, 2009 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  21. S Callahan

    I think some people have really lacked on their history lessons....this is not just a Democrat bluder...though if you were to blame you may want to look at NAFTA....but this has been through several adminstration. and Private compaines sneaking their voice and pull in the politics. The difference today is that the people can no longer be fooled because it's at the end of the game.....reality has hit and it's scaring the crap out of the Politicans who are morally and legally accountable to the citizens of the United States for their incompetent and or poor spending habits.

    What we need in this country is God's mercy and grace.

    February 9, 2009 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  22. J.P.

    If you want to help people, you need to create jobs.

    But you cannot create jobs by taxing the daylights out of those who actually do all the job creation in this county.

    I hear this "stimulus" package is polling very high among poll respondents. How many of these idiots are economists? How many have the slightest understanding of economics? How many understand that for every dollar the government doles out, it must first take it from someone in the private sector... a dollar that could have been used for job creation in the private sector, where all jobs are created.

    You idiots voted for an economic nightmare. This guy campaigned on this message of talking down the economy for TWO YEARS. For two years this clown dominated the airwaves (thanks to Obama's slobbering fan club in the media) talking about how bad things were and how he was going to tax the snot out of anyone successful... looks like his fear mongering worked and he got the economic collapse he was angling for. Problem is, his Economic October Surprise has clearly spiraled WAY out of control. Maybe Barry can give a good speech to bring the economy back in line.

    February 9, 2009 09:27 pm at 9:27 pm |
  23. Lisa

    My husband and I own a restaurant in outside of Detroit. We are watching small businesses – retail and restaurants closing all around us. People aren't going out to eat or shop. How are we going to make it through 2009? Run leaner? We have made all of the cuts and adjustments possible. All we have left is prayer. If we close, 25 staff members will loose their jobs. Are there anything being done to help keep small buisnesses open through this crisis? Michigan is already at 10.6% unemployment.

    February 9, 2009 09:30 pm at 9:30 pm |
  24. pam bogart

    I dont live in Elkart IN but I live close in Starke county In. The unemployment here is almost as bad, times are tuff for all and I hope they let our new president do what he wants to do to help us out. I have a suggestion since everyone is so worried about how much all this is costing especially the GOP. If eveyone really wants to help President Obama succeed lets have everyone in the U.S send 5 dollars each that is able too, to a fund set up for the stimulous package or put it towards the tremendous deficit. Think about it, If everyone really wants to help that would be alot of money, and everyone would feel like they had a hand in helping. Just a suggestion and there are alot of people who probably would do it to help out.

    February 9, 2009 09:31 pm at 9:31 pm |
  25. ME IN FL

    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!"

    Where do you live?? In the US??? I have many friends that have been without a job for almost a year, maybe I can send them to your town, and they can get a job since everything is so fine and dandy there!!!!

    February 9, 2009 09:32 pm at 9:32 pm |
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