Tuesday, August 16, 2011

President Barack Obama told an audience in rural Iowa that the U.S. economy will be “stronger than before” as he sought to regain the initiative on the economic debate that likely will dominate the 2012 campaign.

“I’m also convinced that comeback isn’t going to be driven by Washington,” Obama said at a forum on the rural economy at Northeast Community College in Peosta. “It is going to be driven by folks here in Iowa.”

On the second day of a Midwest bus tour in the state that helped propel his drive toward the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008, Obama used an updated version of some of the same themes that animated his earlier campaign.

Then, he cast himself as an outside agent of change running against Washington and relying on grassroots support. Now, Obama is calling on voters to join him in pressuring Congress, saying “politics of the short term” and “the refusal of a faction of Congress to put country ahead of party” are stalling measures to bolster growth.

“There’s nothing wrong with our country, although there is some problems with our politics,” Obama said yesterday. “I hope that I can count on you in the days ahead to lend your voice to this fight to strengthen our economy.”

In the days before the 2008 Iowa caucuses, Obama also sought to enlist Iowans, telling a crowd on Dec. 27, 2007 that “we can’t afford four more years of the same divisive food fight in Washington that’s about scoring political points instead of solving problems.”
Delivering on Promises

The question now is whether Obama can recapture his earlier support at a time when his ability to deliver on economic promises is limited by budget concerns and his policies are under attack by Republicans.

In Minnesota and Iowa, Obama outlined a menu of measures that he wants Congress to adopt, including a renewal of a payroll tax cut for workers, revamping the patent process, approving free-trade deals and setting up a so-called infrastructure bank to help fund construction projects such as road building.

Obama concludes his trip to the nation’s heartland today with two town hall meetings in his home state of Illinois where the unemployment rate is 9.2 percent. It’s the only state he’s visited this week where the jobless rate is higher than the 9.1 percent national average.
Traveling Back Roads

Yesterday, Obama traveled 216 miles across Iowa, his motorcade passing through back roads and stopping at various points along the way to talk with local residents, eat some ice cream, popcorn and pick up gifts for his daughters.

The Republican National Committee responded to Obama’s trip by releasing an ad, “Obama’s Debt-End Bus Tour,” that lists the jobs lost in Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois since he took office.

The president also was the target of criticism from Texas Governor Rick Perry, who announced on Aug. 13 that he is running for the Republican presidential nomination.

“The president of the United States has conducted an experiment on the American economy for almost the last three years, and it has gone tragically wrong,” Perry said yesterday at a Republican fundraiser in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Perry said any move by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke to act on stimulus measures before the 2012 election would be “almost treasonous.”
Fed’s Independence

Carney told reporters that the administration takes the Fed’s independence “quite seriously” and criticized Perry’s “threatening” language.

Obama plans to announce new economic proposals next month, though he continues to call for initiatives he previously proposed. “We could do even more if Congress is willing to get into the game,” he said.

The Senate is poised to take up patent reform once lawmakers return from their August recess, and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said they are waiting for Obama to submit the free-trade agreements.

“It is my hope that the president, who continues to refuse to send these agreements to Congress while simultaneously calling for Congress to act, will finally resolve this contradiction by sending the agreements immediately,” McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said in a statement.
Bruising Battle

After a summer spent mired in a bruising political battle with Republicans on raising the debt ceiling that created more uncertainty about the U.S. economy, Obama over the last two days has sought to reassure the American public. Standard & Poor’s first-ever downgrade of the U.S. credit rating, risks of a spillover effect from Europe’s debt crisis and volatility in global markets are drawing comparisons to the beginning of the 2008 financial crisis.

Fitch Ratings yesterday affirmed its top AAA rating on U.S. Treasuries. Standard & Poor’s, another of the three major ratings companies, on Aug. 5 cut its rating on federal debt to AA+ from AAA. The yield on the benchmark 10-year note dropped 0.06 percentage point to 2.25 percent yesterday in New York, according to Bloomberg Bond Trader prices.

U.S. stocks fell for the first time in four days on concern that the European debt crisis may worsen and after the Commerce Department said housing starts fell last month. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index declined 1 percent to 1,192.76 in New York yesterday. The benchmark index had rallied 7.5 percent in the three previous sessions, its biggest jump since March 2009.
European Crisis

Concern about Europe’s crisis overshadowed a Federal Reserve report that industrial production in the U.S. climbed in July by 0.9 percent, the most this year and almost twice as fast as economists forecast.

At the rural forum, Obama outlined proposals that the administration says will aid the economy in the farming regions outside the nation’s big cities.

Among them are expanded loan programs run by the Small Business Administration through a $1 billion investment fund aimed at luring private capital, job search and training services, and increased access to health care and technology. Money will come from existing programs and funding, according to a White House fact sheet.

The administration also announced that the Navy and the departments of Agriculture and Energy will invest as much as $510 million in a program aimed at producing biofuels for aircraft and ships. The plan, part of the administration’s energy strategy, will benefit rural areas, according to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

In Guttenberg, Iowa, yesterday, Obama met with five owners of small businesses and greeted local residents at Rausch’s Cafe.

Among the residents was Betty McVicker, 90, who said she is a registered Republican and didn’t vote for Obama in 2008. Still, she went to Rausch’s for a chance to meet him.

“He’s our president,” she said. “I’m thrilled to pieces.”


Post a Comment