Obama urges anxious Americans to look at the long term

McClatchy NewspapersMarch 3, 2009 

WASHINGTON — The $787 billion stimulus has begun flowing into the economy, but President Obama isn't done selling its merits to Americans. To counter ever-sliding stock prices and consumer angst, he's ramping up a marketing campaign.

Obama unveiled Tuesday a new emblem to appear on stimulus-funded projects. He also visited the Transportation Department to announce the first stimulus-financed road contract, a resurfacing project in Maryland. He'll wrap up the week doing more such touting in Ohio.

Even as the economy dominated concerns Tuesday, Obama also juggled several other obligations:

  • He suspended President Bush's relaxation late last year of the Endangered Species Act. Pending a review by the Interior and Commerce departments, Obama instructed federal agencies to return to the previous practice of consulting with the Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service before moving ahead with construction projects. Environmentalists applauded the move.
  • The president formally nominated Julius Genachowski, a friend from Harvard Law School and a technology and communications investment expert, to lead the Federal Communications Commission.
  • On a more global note, Obama and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown sat down together in Washington to discuss topics including Afghanistan, climate change and the global financial crisis in preparation for an economic summit in London next month.

Brown said he saw "the possibility in the next few months of a global New Deal that will involve all the countries of the world in sorting out and cleaning up the banking system."

The domestic economy soon resurfaced, however, in a brief question-and-answer session with reporters that Obama and Brown held.

Obama compared the stock market to political tracking polls that measure daily public opinion, and cautioned that too much focus on short-term results could mean losing sight of the big picture.

"What I'm looking at is not the day-to-day gyrations of the stock market, but the long-term ability for the United States and the entire world economy to regain its footing," he said.

A moment later, though, he seemed to be urging Americans to buy stocks.

He said "profit and earning ratios are starting to get to the point where buying stocks is a potentially good deal if you've got a long-term perspective on it. I think that consumer confidence, as they see the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act taking root, businesses are starting to see opportunities for investment and potential hiring."

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs downplayed the remark later, saying, "I wouldn't overly read into different statements as to buy or sell in your particular portfolio."

Gibbs had said a day earlier, however, that Obama is purposefully highlighting stimulus projects because he "believes it's important for the American people to see what is being done" and "to give people confidence" that the economy "can and will be turned around again."

The emblem unveiled as part of that effort is a red, white, blue and green circle, which contains stars, gears and a branch with leaves — images of patriotism, commerce and environmentalism. It also includes the address of the administration's Web site, recovery.gov, where people can track how and where stimulus dollars are being spent.

Obama rolled out the new stimulus emblem, which will appear on signs marking the projects the stimulus will fund, on a visit to the Transportation Department. There, he, Vice President Joe Biden and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said the stimulus would mean $28 billion for highway construction and create or preserve 150,000 related jobs by the end of 2010.

"That's more jobs being created or saved in one year than GM, Ford, and Chrysler have lost in manufacturing over the past three years combined," Obama said. "Fourteen days after I signed our Recovery Act into law, we are seeing shovels hit the ground."

Biden said: "We're about to start the biggest investment on our nation's roads, bridges, highways and tunnels since we built the interstate highway system over 50 years ago. It's a big deal." Administration officials said that more than $750 million will be spent on 100 transportation projects nationwide in the next month.

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McClatchy Newspapers 2009

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