- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 15, 2013

Amid problems in Syria, a stalled immigration reform bill and other challenges, President Obama is once again pivoting to the economy in an effort to convince Americans that, without his policies, the nation would not have emerged from the 2008 financial meltdown.

“Let’s think about where we were five years ago. The economy was on the verge of a great depression … And we came in and stabilized the situation,” Mr. Obama said during an interview Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.”

On Monday, the administration will continue making its case. The president is scheduled to speak from the Rose Garden, where he’ll be joined by citizens who “have benefited from his economic recovery proposals over the last five years, including small business owners, construction workers, homeowners, consumers and tax cut recipients,” the White House said in announcing the speech.

The event comes five years after the Sept. 15, 2008, failure of Lehman Brothers and subsequent stock market crash that brought the economy to depths from which it is still recovering.

In the weeks and months following, multiple financial institutions would fail, while others survived only through the controversial government bailout program.

As a result, the jobless rate would rise dramatically over the next year.

The president was elected less than two months after the crisis began, and the administration came to power pledging to reduce unemployment, create private-sector jobs and rein in reckless behavior and irresponsible lending on Wall Street.

Mr. Obama pushed through a massive economic stimulus package, bailed out the American auto industry and signed the controversial Dodd-Frank financial reform bill into law.

“Everything I’ve done has been designed to, No. 1, stabilize the economy, get it growing again, start producing jobs again,” Mr. Obama said.

One of the architects of the financial reform measure, former Rep. Barney Frank, said Sunday the actions that were taken by Congress and the administration over the past five years prevent a crisis like the one seen in 2008 and 2009.

“It could not happen in the same way,” said Mr. Frank, Massachusetts Democrat, during an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Also Sunday, the White House produced a report detailing the administration’s response. It centers on the “speed and comprehensiveness” with which Mr. Obama acted, highlighting, among other things, the fact that he signed his stimulus package into law within 30 days of taking office and acted to prop up the U.S. auto industry within five months.

Gene Sperling, the outgoing director of the National Economic Council, told reporters Sunday afternoon the president’s economic recovery plan has “performed better than virtually anyone at that time predicted” when they were implemented.

But despite the administration’s actions and some encouraging trends in the months and years since 2009, fully repairing the damaged economy has proved difficult for the Obama administration.

The jobless rate, for example remains stubbornly high at 7.3 percent.

Critics argue that many of the president’s policy initiatives — most notably Obamacare — are hindering, not helping, a true financial recovery.

While the economy has to some degree been pushed to the back burner as Washington wrangles with Syria and other crises, a looming fight over raising the nation’s debt ceiling is poised once again to bring it back to the fore.

Republican leaders are pushing for deep federal spending cuts as a key part of any deal, with the ultimate goal to dramatically reduce the annual budget deficit.

“You can’t talk about increasing the debt limit unless you’re willing to make changes and reforms that begin to solve the spending problem that Washington has,” House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, said late last week. “And unless we deal with our spending problem honestly and forthrightly, the American dream’s going to be out of reach for our kids and grandkids. I think our members are ready to solve this problem.”

Mr. Obama shot back, admonishing the speaker that he will not “negotiate around the debt ceiling” and promised to continue pushing federal investment.

“My orientation here is real simple. I want to make sure that we’ve got an economy in which Main Street is winning,” he said. “And what that requires is that we’re investing in education, early childhood, that we’re investing in transportation, that we’re investing in the things that we need to grow … If we want to do more deficit reduction, I’ve already put out a budget that says, ‘Let’s do it.’”

Mr. Sperling went even further, arguing that the administration’s efforts to repair the economy could be undone if the nation defaults on its debt.

“What a terrible self-inflicted wound it would be for our country to put at risk, to move our economy backwards instead of forwards, by repeating a high-wire threat of defaulting,” he said.

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