(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.
"I won't 'twiddle my thumbs' waiting for GOP"
Translation = I'm a king and don't need the peoples voice in my decisions. I'll spend their money the way I see fit...
Maybe if you didn't have so many disasters, Republicans wouldn't have to tell you no. Maybe you should just take a day, answer all the questions you refuse to answer about the scandals, and then call Mitt Romney about what it takes to improve the economy.
2 trillion in new taxes; 4 trillion cost ot tax payers for obamacare by 2019; running private business out of business left and right – no he hasn't waited on the GOP – didn't he say this same crap last year, and the one before that...etc.?
If it is left to the GOP or the Democrats we will end up in a lost decade like Japan has been stuck in. Governments don't fix the economy they are actually a stress on the economy. The only way to get the economy growing again is for the government to get out of the way of productive people. We don't need someone telling us to go out and make/spend money. What we need is for them to stop messing up the value of our money and reduce the tax burden/regulations on small business owners.
Historically the biggest employers in this country have been the small businesses and they are having a harder time under our tax and regulatory structures.
Thank God for President Obama!, ...Smiles!
Its all about global warming and carbon release?? Help us Obama!!
Let me get this straight: Obama has been in office since January 2009. After bailing out the banks while Americans enter foreclosure, after bailing out GM while Detroit files bankruptcy, after passing a health care reform bill that forces Americans to pay for services without choice benefitting the pockets of HMOs, after raising taxes because Democrats don't comprehend how to fix the infrastructure of the U.S., now he wants to focus on the middle class? What for? Obama will probably do more harm than good.
Great. So he'll use Executive Orders like a tyrant wielding dictatorial powers. I remember him criticizing Bush for using Executive Orders saying they went against the American Way. Funny how it works now.
About time Obama stopped playing defense and went on offense. Let's set the table for the 2014/2016 elections by showing America the real face of the Grand Obstructionist Party being jerked at will by the Tea Party Wackos.
Lord, the Emperor has spoken... He needs nothing more than his own approval to do what is best for everybody.. He has everybody's best interests at the upper most in his mind...
He is omniscient... Just ask him!
Thank you President Obama. It is past time to take action for the benefit of the People and the recovery of our nation. The Repubicans are not going to do anything, as we have seen for the past 6 years of obstruction and 420 filibusters, to block every jobs, infrastructure, education, stimulus, and even veterans bills. Republicans think they are hurting President Obama by letting nothing get done but he is still a successful leader fighting for the People. What Republicans have done is betray and hurt the American People by leaving us to fight unemployment with benefits they took away, a jobs bill they would not even debate, kill an infrastructure program to repair our crumbling bridges, schools, and be a jobs creator, take away education funding and stand by as student loan interest rates doubled, and state-by-state pass voter suppression laws, anti-abortion bills, and degrade the poor calling them "takers" as they gave rich corporations even more money and power. It has been shameful, frustrating, unAmerican and we need President Obama to stand up and try again to fight for our recovery. I am proud he is my President because he never gives us trying to do his job in serving the People.
Thank you President Obama. It is past time to take action for the benefit of the People and the recovery of our nation. The Repubicans are not going to do anything, as we have seen for the past 6 years of obstruction and 420 filibusters, to block every jobs, infrastructure, education, stimulus, and even veterans bills. Republicans think they are hurting President Obama by letting nothing get done but he is still a successful leader fighting for the People. What Republicans have done is betray and hurt the American People by leaving us to fight unemployment with benefits they took away, a jobs bill they would not even debate, kill an infrastructure program to repair our crumbling bridges, schools, and be a jobs creator, take away education funding and stand by as student loan interest rates doubled, and state-by-state pass voter suppression laws, anti-abortion bills, and degrade the poor calling them "takers" as they gave rich corporations even more money and power. It has been shameful, frustrating, unAmerican and we need President Obama to stand up and try again to fight for our recovery. I am proud he is my President because he never gives up trying to do his job in serving the People.
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. ......lol good luck
No budget/overspending on stupid ideas like Cash for Clunkers and bailouts for those fat corporations that were overspending and being greedy/two wars we didnt need have led us to this point. We are 17 trillion in debt and Obama thinks we should allow illegal immigrants to just come on in and become legal citizens. EVERY IDEA THIS PRESIDENT HAS HAD HAS BEEN A FAILURE! NSA spying on everyone while Muslims are still allowed to go to school here and roam around freely. Illegal immigrants roaming freely sucking up tax dollars. IRS is a bunch of bloated overpaid idiots targeting whoever they want and dont even get me started on Obamacare! What a disaster that is. Detroit bailouts and they file for bankruptcy anyway. I would suggest that Obama stop flying everywhere at the taxpayers expense/taking vacations at the taxpayer expense and start to twiddle his thumbs and quit trying to "fix" things. Obviously he doesnt have a clue how to fix things!
Republicans would rather see the country fail than see our President pull us out of the hole that they left us in.
If you gonna close central bank, and put in jail every single person related with it, your deed will be remembered for centuries.
Who supports Congress, do they have that many family and friends? Next yr, if you vote for the incumbent, no matter the party, you deserve to lose your job, pay higher gas prices, see your sons and daughters go off to a new war. Enjoy.
This from the man who had control of both chambers in his first two years yet couldn't pass a budget. In fact the one and only budget proposal he sent to the hill failed to get even one democrat vote!! What does that tell you about this goofs idea of how the economy works?
My parents were union card carrying democrats but they never abandoned their common sense and values. I left the democrat party during the Clinton administration and remain a registered independent. Will those of you on the left please try and remember to do the same? Disagreeing on the issues is NOT racist. He is clueless in many areas and it is glaringly clear he and his administration is corrupt. Please take off the blinders and see what is happening to this great country.17 trillion in debt, cities like Detroit decaying, with states like California waiting in the wings to be the next bankruptcy headline. Chicago is a cesspool of crime and corruption, the IRS scandal, NSA, secret service, Benghazi, should I go on? Admit that he is a failure and help stop this insanity.
By constantly bringing up race, he's part of the problem.
Only a fool can think the government can make the economy better.
If he's not waiting on the GOP, what is he waiting for? It's only been 5 years now.
Please do NOT "FIX" the economy. A free market will continue to weed out inefficiencies. You and Bush and the other cronies up there have done enough damage. How about we have a period where politicians stop "FIXING" things and see how everything just plays out? I'm positive we will get better results.
Why is this guy still campaigning?
Can't wait for 2016 & No more Clintons...GOP's turn to lead