President Barack Obama looked to steer the nation’s economic attention back to the big picture Tuesday night, away from recent days’ micro-focus on outrage over bonuses paid to executives of the federally rescued insurance giant AIG.
Obama was being questioned at a prime-time news conference during a crowded week for the White House. A day earlier, his administration unveiled a plan to unfreeze credit by helping banks shed bad loans, a proposal that led to a huge stock rally. Stocks slipped back a bit on Tuesday as Wall Street digested all the information.
The administration is to outline its proposal for a broad overhaul of financial regulations on Thursday. And the $3.6 trillion budget that includes Obama’s ambitious, all-at-once agenda of increased health care coverage, higher education spending and a new “cap-and-trade” system on greenhouse gases emissions faces its firsts tests this week on Capitol Hill, where opposition is coming from Democrats as well as Republicans.
Obama also is preparing for a European trip next week that includes a London summit on the global economic crisis, while, away from the economy, an announcement is expected by Friday on a revamped U.S. strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The news conference in the White House’s stately East Room was to be held in prime-time television viewing hours — to maximize the unfiltered exposure of the president’s message.
Obama’s job approval rating is 63 percent, according to Gallup polling. That number has been relatively stable recently, down from the 68 percent when the president took office mostly on a loss of support among Republicans.
In an opening statement, the president planned to summarize all the steps taken by his administration so far to address the worst economic disaster in a quarter-century.
The latest installment is the government’s plan to finance the purchase by private investors of as much as $1 trillion of the $2 trillion in bad assets still held by the nation’s banks. The idea is to free banks of those lead weights so they will begin lending more freely and churn up economic activity.
On Thursday, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is due on Capitol Hill to unveil the administration’s plan for overhauling financial sector regulations. A key request: greater ability for the government to regulate and even take over the kind of complicated financial companies — like American International Group — whose collapse could threaten the entire system.
Anti-AIG ferocity threatens to undermine Obama’s efforts to bail out the nation’s deeply troubled financial sector, by possibly scaring investors away from the new program and by making it more difficult to wring more bailout money out of Congress.
Obama has been in near-constant motion since he assumed the presidency just over two months ago, announcing changed policies and traveling the country to promote them. This week has assumed an especially feverish pitch.
A long interview with CBS’ “60 Minutes” aired Sunday night.
An opinion piece written by Obama ran in 31 newspapers worldwide on Tuesday, a setup to next week’s meeting of leaders of the Group of 20 largest world economies. Obama pressed nations to take “bold, comprehensive and coordinated” steps against the recession, including stiffer government controls over risky financial instruments and greater efforts to help developing economies.
On Wednesday, Obama is traveling to Capitol Hill to lobby Senate Democrats on his budget priorities. His spending blueprint for the fiscal year starting in October is meeting resistance from fellow Democrats over both its size and priorities.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.