(CNN) - President Barack Obama explained why, amid a series of executive branch controversies, his renewed focus on the economy matters: it's not only about financial stability, but about equal opportunity.
The message he sees as "jobs and justice" from the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s March on Washington 50 years ago still rings true, Obama told The New York Times in an interview published Saturday evening.
To the many Americans who today are uncertain about their future, the 1963 march taught valuable lessons on racial equality and opportunities for "working folks," he argued.
The remarks, days after the president spoke on race and the Trayvon Martin case, came while he was on a campaign-style economic tour.
"Racial tensions won't get better; they may get worse, because people will feel as if they've got to compete with some other group to get scraps from a shrinking pot" if individuals do not see a stable fiscal future, Obama said.
"If the economy is growing, everybody feels invested. Everybody feels as if we're rolling in the same direction," he continued.
Obama's midweek schedule looked familiar to watchers of his 2012 campaign and first White House term, when he favored speaking to crowds at colleges and businesses around the nation over Washington venues when advocating his economic priorities.
After visiting universities in Illinois and Missouri and speaking on the importance of education to the economy, he flew to the port in Jacksonville, Florida, where he called for investment in infrastructure. On Monday, he will speak at a Tennessee shipping center about manufacturing, jobs, and economic growth; then on Wednesday, he will travel to Capitol Hill to meet with Democrats in the House and Senate.
He cast aside the questions about such issues as the National Security Agency leaks, Internal Revenue Service political scrutiny and U.S. handling of the Benghazi, Libya, attack last September. "With an endless parade of distractions, political posturing and phony scandals, Washington has taken its eye off the ball," he said, although he was not specific about which controversies he was referring to.
The White House plans to continue the economic push into the fall.
In the same time frame, he is also expected to make perhaps the most important economic decision of his second term: naming a new individual to chair the Federal Reserve. Ben Bernanke's term as chairman is set to expire in January.
Obama told the Times he wanted someone who would go beyond tracking inflation and focus on market stability.
"The idea is to promote those things in service of the lives of ordinary Americans getting better," he said. "I want a Fed chairman that can step back and look at that objectively and say, Let's make sure that we're growing the economy."
He disputed Republicans' claims about job creation should the controversial Keystone pipeline from Canada to the Gulf Coast be constructed. The 2,000 temporary construction jobs he predicted - far less than the 20,000 some Republicans have said to expect - would be a "a blip relative to the need" for job creation.
He suggested that concerns over the pipeline's environmental impact could be addressed to his satisfaction because "there is no doubt that Canada at the source in those tar sands could potentially be doing more to mitigate carbon release."
In the interview, the president acknowledged that people are "anxious" and "frustrated" about their own financial future even while the economy overall improves.
Some do not see the potential for upward mobility, which he called "part and parcel of who we were as Americans."
It predates the fiscal crises of the last decade, he said, and despite the bloated national debt, the federal government's austerity measures have hurt the government's ability to effect change in diverse areas such as climate change and immigration.
"I want to make sure that all of us in Washington are investing as much time, as much energy, as much debate on how we grow the economy and grow the middle class as we've spent over the last two to three years arguing about how we reduce the deficits," he said, blasting what he called "a damaging framework in Washington."
And he issued a stern warning to Capitol Hill Republicans: "I'm not just going to sit back if the only message from some of these folks is no on everything, and sit around and twiddle my thumbs for the next 1,200 days."
A series of polls this month have shown Obama's approval rating is below the 50% mark. But his scores - in the mid- and upper-40s - rank well above those of Congress, which came in at 21% and 12% approval in two surveys conducted about a week ago.
The GOP acts like what they left the American people in 2008 was simply wonderful, and everything "bad" that is in America today is Obama's fault.
If it were up to me- party aside- I'll go every time with the President who tries to make things better for the middle class- the one who supports fair, and equal pay for workers. The one who pushes for fair voting and civil rights. The one who tries to end wars and not start them. The one who doesn't pander to one group only. I think most Americans will line up behind a candidate that stands for fairness, and policies that benefit all.
Now for you guys from the right, this might be bad news. I am White, middle-aged, middle class and fairly well educated. I own my home, have no outstanding bills, and I understand that the GOP stands opposed to everything I believe in. There are many more like me than your abortion-scessionist lunatics.
Hmmmmmm; let's think about this for a minute.
1.The stock market are at all time highs because the fed is pumping $45 Billion a month into the housing market
2. Home prices are rebounding because of the phony money that the fed is shoving into the market
3. The unemployment rate is going down (less than 5% in the Seattle metro area) but in the rest of the country it is 7.6 percent well above the 4.9% when he took office.
4. The growth rate for health care cost is being lowered every day as employers are lowering hours to part time and jettisoning their health care plans. Minimum deductible for man woman and child will be $5500 as per NY Times and Forbes. Cost is being shifted from employers to the people.
5. Decreased individual liberty and freedoms of millions of LGBT citizens and all citizens with NSA scandal and IRS scandal.
6. Got us out of Iraq and, no too long from now, we'll be out of Afghanistan. All the wars are stopping on the Bush schedule not on any speeded up Obama schedule. This is just reality, Obama said he would have us out of the wars a long time ago. Increase the strength of the illegal patriot act, beefed up Bush's NSA spying program on American citizens, the UN and even the EU. Shameless
7. Is vigorously trying to curtail legal voting by demanding no ids, why is this so important to him, just ask yourself if no one has ever had to show and id how much corruption is out there, lots that we never hear about. Need id for bank account, medicaid, medicare, welfare, airplanes, school so what is the big deal about id cards. Pretty obvious!
8. Is protecting a woman's right to choose even for very later term abortions, even 5 months when everyone agrees that it is no longer a fetus, it is a child. Even our liberal European friends draw the line at 12 week not the 20-24 weeks Obama wants. Mass murder or genocide is not right in anyone's book.
9. Fighting for equal pay for equal work, but favoring the rich with bank bailouts, car company bailouts, insurance company bailouts. Restructuring bank reform that favors banks even more than Bush did. Six banks have been designated as too big to fail under Obama. They can now do what they want with impunity because the government has told them we will not let you fail under any circumstances.
10. Fighting for pragmatic immigration reform without closing the border which is the democratic promise made in 1986 and 2006. Give people amnesty and then forget about closing the border. The trick has been played on the American people twice before, this is no different
11. Banghazi, four dead phony us citizens one dead phony ambassador and Obama calls it a phony scandal
12. IRS apologizes for descrimination and Obama calls it a phony scandal
13. NSA spying on all Americans and Obama calls it a phony scandal, specifically campaigned against this.
14. Fast and Furious phony scandal had 200 dead phony Mexicans and one phony dead federal agent
15. AP scandal, had to shop for liberal judge to sign warrants as first two told Holder it was illegal
16. Fox/Rosen scandal
17, Holder lied to senate, you would go to jail if you lied and Obama protects him
18 Obama tells us how he is outraged by these phony scandals, does he not know he is the head of the government or is he simply that stupid or is he playing politics and Americans are that stupid. Which ever the answer, he is a man that attempts to punish is enemies and opponents and lacks a moral compass!
Dividing the country along race, wealth, gender, guns, at every turn. Shameless administration.
The fact is that he faces a Congress which won't let anything pass that would help our nation only things that help themselves. We need Glass-Steagall reinstated ASAP but don't think it'll happen anytime soon. Wall Street is completely in control of everything including Congress. That is why America is dying!!!
How can you idiots not see what an evil man obama is? His real name might as well be Valdemort.
We are still losing money with GM bailed out! We own billions in stock! GM stock needs to be 93 dollars or more per share in order for us to earn our taxpayers money back! We have been selling some stocks at lost..
Thank you President Barry Obama for being so flexible and able to work with others.
it's definitely hard swimming against a obstructing republican agenda year after year isn't it mr.president, that's all the republicans have done since the first black presidents inauguration. lie and obstruct.
Is it the governments job to create equal opportunity, or is it the peoples job? If the government want the people to have equal opportunity but the people themselves do not embrace the concept, can there be equal opportunity?
Democrats have not made this country better – they have not made it safer. Obama evidently learned nothing from the passage of the AHCA, and needs to unit people rather than divide them. Your legacy is written and it is one of division and ego, it is a "great American failure".
5 years of :-
Apologising for America
Making the US a laughing stock in the world
Sending the economy into a tail-spin
Abusing Exec privilege
Benghazi [THE worst thing ever]
Illegally invading another Country
By-passing Congress then blaming them when he screws up [AGAIN!]
Doing NOTHING to encourage jobs as he promised [HIM – not Congress]
And STILL the uneducated, great unwashed think he's doing a good job????? Excuse me while I join the rest of the world and have a damn good laugh! You people are beyond pathetic.
Its about getting more people on WELFARE!!!
We have no more money for Obama to pour into the Unions and Obama's Big Donors pockets
The GOP hates this man and will take down the entire country to destroy him. Keep electing the people who kneel before Wall Street and the Koch Brothers and we will become a third world nation controlled by the elite. Shame on you stupid Republicans.
The GOP run congress will eventually run out of formerly middle class voters who can be convinced a state of perpetual poverty is what our constitution embowels.
I mean guns, Benghazi, filibusters, war mongering and vaginal politics, does not feed, educate or provide comprehensive health care for my family. Its really that simple, the only time I see the GOP stand up for jobs, is when they have an opportunity to Frack us. Simply put, their wealth is much more important than your health. Combine the oil industries money with the GOP and the Fracking cancer they will sell to us as jobs will know no precedent.
Obama's agenda, destroy America at any cost, stop any GOP attempt to fix country. Sell to China and burn the constitution.
Well, whatever you have been "twiddling" for the past 5 years CERTAINLY HASNT WORKED!!!!!!!!!!
Equal opportunity in spite of ability, effort or luck. In other words, handouts. Wonderful.
Obama and friends have looted this country,what's next?more looting.
We are going to have a government shutdown in September. The President isn't going to cave to these fanatics anymore! We will see who comes out on top of this in the end... Racists and anti-government fanatics who... want to destroy government or people who want to actually have the government function. Either way, America will get what it deserves.
I'm actually getting tired of hearing the President blame HALF of Congress (only the Republican part) for everything. It takes two sides to truly negotiate, not one side saying " do everything I say and we have a deal".
Mr. President, please stop pursuing your short-term political goals and start working with Congress, the representatives of the People. We are tired of your pursuit of your short-term agenda, and your lack of concern for the common man.
Fish is excatly right.
Americans have moved forward during the Obama Administration IN SPITE OF REPUBLICAN OBSTRUCTIONISM! President Obama helps the middle-class rather than just pandering to the rich. The Republican game plan is simple – fire-up fearful radicals with "gays, guns and god" while creating conspiracies and distortions whenever possible. They never compromise and do nothing for jobs, healthcare or Social Security.
I will fight with Mr Obama, he needs us to stand with him and not the GOP get away with blocking any & all that our President tries to accomplish. We must try and get control of the house, keep the senate & begin to change the outcome for some of the leaders in state politics. If we fail to address this disease, we will slowly keep going down not just in our rights but on any direction where only the very rich & politicians come up ahead. It is beyond comprehension how the GOP (other than the hatred for the POTUS) tries to sabotage any & all acts that would help the USA just so Mr Obama does not come out looking good. How sad we all have to suffer because of the capriciousness of the GOP. GET THE GOP OUT OF THERE!!!!!
Now I do not like Obama that much. But republicans are just absolutely ridiculous about every law policy that he attempts to bring up. They won't negotiate nor are willing to find common ground or reform. The GOP paints itself as favoring the poor, but they are the biggest hypocrites and liars. They support big business outsourcing, they support smashing anyone in the way of the rich, and let's not forget the rich tax cuts which have been a disaster. The GOP won't even bring up the minimum wage a couple dollars. They focus on damaging Obamas reputation and administration with fabricated or petty scandals, and then blame Obama for not doing his job when they themselves have done absolutely nothing but try to impeach him. If the GOP seriously cared about America How about helping Obamas effort instead of just criticizing and blocking everything? You don't have to like him. What a bunch of crooks