- Associated Press - Monday, September 20, 2010

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Obama said Monday he doesn’t care that the Great Recession has been declared over by a group of economists. For the millions of people who are out of work or otherwise struggling, he said, “it’s still very real for them.”

Mr. Obama denied that he was anti-business or anti-Wall Street in his economic proposals, commenting under close questioning during a town hall-style meeting broadcast live on CNBC.

He offered a mixed verdict on the growing tea party, calling its skepticism of government “healthy…That’s in our DNA, right?”

But, he added, “The challenge for the tea party movement is to identify specifically ‘What would you do?’” to help turn around the economy and produce jobs.

“It’s not enough just to say, ‘Get control of government.’ I think it’s important for you to say, ‘You know, I’m willing to cut veterans’ benefits or Social Security benefits or I’m willing to see these taxes go up.’”

The government can’t simply cut taxes on the nation’s wealthiest people “and magically think things are going to work out,” he said.

Focusing on the poor economic conditions that existed when he took office, Mr. Obama said, “The hole was so deep that a lot of people out there are still hurting.”

He spoke shortly after the National Bureau of Economic Research, a private panel of economists that dates the beginnings and ends of recessions, said the downturn that began in December 2007 ended in June 2009. At 18 months, that makes it the longest recession since World War II.

“Something that took ten years to create is going to take a little more time to solve,” Mr. Obama said.

“Even though economists may say that the recession officially ended last year, obviously for the millions of people who are still out of work, people who have seen their home values decline, people who are struggling to pay the bills day to day, it’s still very real for them,” Mr. Obama said.

He participated in the hour-long session before heading to Pennsylvania to raise money for Democratic Senate candidate Joe Sestak, who is locked in a tight race for a seat considered a must-win for the president’s party. The seat is currently in Democratic hands, but polls show it to be a tight race.

The group assembled for the session included large and small business owners, teachers, students and unemployed people.

A woman who said she was the chief financial officer for a veterans’ service organization told Mr. Obama, “I’m exhausted of defending you, defending your administration, defending the mantle of change that I voted for, and deeply disappointed with where we are right now.”

“Is this my new reality?” she asked.

Mr. Obama told her, “My goal is not to convince you that everything is where it ought to be. It’s not.” Still, Obama said that things were “moving in the right direction” under policies he has put in place.

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