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Obama says economic progress ‘painfully slow’

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WASHINGTON (AP) — President Obama insisted Friday that the U.S. economy is showing improvement from the deepest recession in decades but conceded the "progress has been painfully slow." He said he understands that many voters in November's elections may blame the weak recovery on him.

"For all the progress we've made, we're not there yet. And that means people are frustrated and why people are angry," he said at the White House in his first formal news conference since May. "Because I am president, and the Democrats have control the House and Senate, it's understandable that people are saying, 'What have you done?'"

Mr. Obama repeated his insistence that Republicans drop stalling tactics on a bill to help small businesses when Congress returns next week from its summer recess.

Facing the possibility of a GOP blowout in November, Mr. Obama insisted again that Bush-era tax cuts be extended for indivuduals earning over $200,000 a year and joint filers earning over $250,000. All the tax cuts are due to expire at the end of this year unless Congress acts.

Mr. Obama said Congress shouldn't delay extending the middle-class tax cuts any longer.

"Why hold it up? Why hold the middle class hostage," he said.

He said extending tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans "is a bad idea."

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