In a media availability with Philippines President Benigno Aquino this afternoon, President Obama was asked about Mitt Romney’s response that Obama is “out of touch” for saying this morning that “the private sector is doing fine.”
Here’s the walkback:
Listen, it is absolutely clear that the economy is not doing fine. That’s the reason I had the press conference. That’s why I spent yesterday, the day before yesterday, this past week, this past month, and this past year talking about how we can make the economy stronger.
The economy is not doing fine. There are too many people out of work. The housing market is still weak and too many homes underwater. And that’s precisely why I asked Congress to start taking some steps that can make a difference.
Now, I think if you look at what I said this morning and what I’ve been saying consistently over the last year, we’ve actually seen some good momentum in the private sector. We’ve seen 4.3 million jobs created — 800,000 this year alone — record corporate profits. And so that has not been the biggest drag on the economy.
The folks who are hurting, where we have problems and where we can do even better, is small businesses that are having a tough time getting financing; we’ve seen teachers and police officers and firefighters who’ve been laid off — all of which, by the way, when they get laid off spend less money buying goods and going to restaurants and contributing to additional economic growth. The construction industry is still very weak, and that’s one of the areas where we’ve still seen job losses instead of job gains.
So if we take the steps that I laid out to make sure that we’re not seeing teacher layoffs and we’re not seeing police officer layoffs, and we’re providing small businesses with additional financing and tax breaks for when they hire or if they’re giving raises to their employees; if we refinance housing — or allow homeowners to refinance so they’ve got an extra $3,000 in their pocket so that they can spend money and contribute to further economic growth; if we’re making sure that we’re rebuilding, work that has to be done anyway, deferred maintenance on roads and bridges that could put construction workers back to work — all those things will strengthen the economy, and independent economists estimate it would create an additional million jobs.
Now, you can’t give me a good reason as to why Congress would not act on these items other than politics — because these are traditionally ideas that Democrats and Republicans have supported. So let me be as clear as I can be. The economy needs to be strengthened. That’s why I had a press conference. I believe that there are a lot of Americans who are hurting right now, which is what I’ve been saying for the last year, two years, three years, what I’ve been saying since I came into office. And the question then is what are we going to do about it? And one of the things that people get so frustrated about is that instead of actually talking about what would help, we get wrapped up in these political games. That’s what we need to put an end to.
So the key right now is for folks — what I’m interested in hearing from Congress and Mr. Romney is what steps are they willing to take right now that are going to make an actual difference. And so far, all we’ve heard are additional tax cuts to the folks who are doing fine, as opposed to taking steps that would actually help deal with the weaknesses in the economy and promote the kind of economic growth that we would all like to see.
All right. Thank you very much, everybody. Thank you. Thanks. Thank you, guys.
President Aquino didn’t get to field any questions.