(CNN) – President Obama has finally responded personally to the so-called the "tea party" movement – a move amongst some conservatives that criticizes the new administration's policies on taxes, spending, and borrowing during a national economic crisis.
Those critics, he said, were "just waving tea bags around."
"I know you've been hearing all these arguments about, oh, 'Obama is just spending crazy,'" the president said at a town hall event in Arnold, Missouri Wednesday. "Well, let me make a point. Number one, we inherited a $1.3 trillion deficit - that wasn't from my - that wasn't me."
"Number two, there is almost uniform consensus among economists that in the middle of the biggest crisis - financial crisis since the Great Depression, we had to take extraordinary steps. So you've got a lot of Republican economists who agree that we had to do a stimulus package and we had to do something about the banks."
The president told the audience that the federal government's biggest long term fiscal challenges are its commitments for Medicare and Medicaid.
"That's why I've said we've got to have health reform this year - to drive down costs and make health care affordable for American families, businesses and for our government," said Obama.
On his 100th day in office, Obama said he would like to have a "serious" discussion" about how the federal government can rein in spending and meet its long term obligations.
"So, you know, when you see - those of you who are watching certain news channels on which I'm not very popular and you see folks waving tea bags around, let me just remind them that I am happy to have a serious conversation about how we are going to cut our health care costs down over the long term, how we're going to stabilize Social Security."
"But let's not play games and pretend that the reason is because of the [$787 billion stimulus bill], because that's just a fraction of the overall problem that we've got."
The national "tea party" movement was inspired by CNBC correspondent Rick Santelli's late February outburst on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. Joined by several traders, Santelli expressed frustration about the Obama administration's plan to increase government spending in the hopes of turning around the economy and helping homeowners struggling to pay their mortgages. During the outburst, Santelli suggested the idea of having a "Chicago tea party" on the shores of Lake Michigan.