(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.
Everything he said is correct, unless you watch Fox "news". Poor suckers!
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.--------It's true that the income from those jobs may be a blip compared to the millions Obama has given away to his cronies, but I doubt the low- and middle-income families receiving those paychecks would call them a blip.
This twit's idea of economy is stealing from one man and distributing the booty to another. He is America's leading phony.
The GOP has to stop its intentional political obstructions to give way to faster economic growth and development.AMERICA FIRST BEFORE POLITICS.
Obama the great community dis organizer.
Bad loans, and selling favors to anyone who donates,
Ambasidor job are For Sale,
When does he become EVERYONE'S President?
"Summer of Recovery-V"
Talk is cheap...
go to it PREZ... kick some fannies and get some action....we need these guys in congress to start getting people back to work...another serious stimulis package would be a great start...and the repub should get on board..i know many socalled concervatives here in detroit that are out begging for jobs right along with the democrats....YOU HAVE TO SPEND MONEY TO MAKE MONEY!!!!!
Apparently BO doesn't understand how government works.
I can see we are headed for more tax hikes. I'm working hard trying to pay my own way, and I just don't see how more taxes for me is going to be good for my economy.
The problem with this Prez is that he says one thing and does something else..He has shown no conviction of his moral authority. Just rhetoric and the ability to appoint the wrong person for the job...Too bad... but in DC there is no change ever and he is part of the establishment that caused this!!!!
The country has been on a two party system forever, it is the presidents job to bring these parties together but he seems hellbent on dividing the country. His job is to find middle ground that both sides can live with but he is not willing to negotiate and be flexible.
This is how the country works, the successful presidents like Reagan and Clinton found ways to bring people together. Also blaming others for his lack of effectiveness is wrong, really old and people are getting tired of excuses.
He just really doesn't get it. 2016 couldn't come soon enough...
blah, blah, blah. What does Obama know about the economy and economics. Nothing. Where has he been for the last five years on the economy. Nowhere. He's not going to wait on the GOP, good thing Americans haven't been waiting on him. The economy only becomes "important" him when he feels the hear from his corrupt administration.
He has nothing to contribute to America and should be gone.
Wow, this guy is scary. Pitting whites against blacks. Bad stuff.
So, other than bashing/blaming the GOP, what exactly is his economic plan? More taxes on the wealthy? Less oil coming to our country? A few speeches here and there? Doesn't sound like an economic plan to me.
Of course he will not wait for the GOP, because they do not agree with him. Obama's policy is if they do not like my idea' s that's too bad, How dare they (GOP) want a balance of power. Obama has contempt for our constitution and freedoms.
If the government would get out of the way, the economy would take off.
I wonder how many more natural resources is the president going to sell to the Chinese to pay for his economy.
Let the Blame Game begin (again)!!!
One would think its still 2007 and hes still talking about being President.
I'm still waiting for this guy to do one meaningful thing in Office.
As dumb as Bush was he accomplished much more than this pencil necked nerd who loves the sound of his own voice.
Obama got elected just to keep campaigning.
More people relying on government does not amount to upward mobility. There's a difference between a social safety net and an entitlement state. The President appears the be expanding the latter to the point that it threatens the former's ability to exist.
Hes done nothing so far.He cant even twittle his thumbs. Face it hes only there for the perks.