President Obama openly acknowledged underestimating the length and magnitude of the worst recession since the Great Depression in a response to a question during his Twitter town hall.
Always a tough question to answer, Obama was asked what mistakes he made in handling the economic crisis and what he would have done differently looking back on his first months in office.
Obama freely admitted that he would have tried to do a better job explaining “to the American people it was going to take a while to get out of this.”
“Even I didn’t realize the magnitude — because most economists didn’t realize the magnitude — of the recession until” it was many months into his presidency, Obama said Wednesday.
The question came via a tweet during the President’s online town hall Wednesday, in which he responded verbally via a video livestream to questions posed to him via the hashtag #AskObama. Obama began the virtual town hall held in the White House’s East Room by sending out one tweeted question to himself on a computer set off to the side — an apparent attempt to respond to criticism that he would not actually be tweeting responses to the questions streaming in via Twitter.
“In order to reduce the deficit, what costs would you cut and what investments would you keep?” he asked himself in an effort to set the tone and keep the discussion focused on jobs and the economy and which federal programs should be on the chopping block.
Aside from underestimating the scope of the recession, Obama said he didn’t respond aggressively enough to the crisis in the nation’s housing market, which fueled much of the downturn and continues to plague the U.S. economy.
“The continuing decline in the housing market is something that hasn’t bottomed out,” he said, noting that the administration is “going back to the drawing board” to figure out new ways to help the housing sector and encourage banks to modify more mortgages.
But Obama defended the $830 billion stimulus package he shepherded after talking office, deeming it “absolutely the right thing to do” in order to help states and rebuild the country’s infrastructure, something he said he would like to expand despite GOP opposition.
Twitter and select Twitter users from around the country chose the questions the President was asked, including on from Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) that asked him, “After embarking on a record spending binge that has left us deeper in the debt, where are the jobs?”
Obama took a shot at the partisan nature of the question from his political rival.
“This is a slightly skewed question,” Obama said before going on to answer it by denying its premise. Obama said the country has produced more jobs in recent months — just not as quickly as Congress would like. He also said he would like to try to boost the economy by investing in more national infrastructure projects that would get constructions workers — one of the hardest-hit sectors — back to work but Republicans have so far rebuffed more stimulus spending.