What Is Obama Doing About the Economy? His Spokesman Fumbles for an Answer

August 5, 2011 - 6:16 AM

Jay Carney

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney during his daily news briefing at the White House in Washington, Monday, March, 7, 2011. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

(CNSNews.com) - At the daily White House briefing Thursday, reporters pressed Obama spokesman Jay Carney for answers about Obama's leadership -- what he's doing to deal with economic weakness, given the recent stock market tumble and growing fears of a double-dip recession.

"He is focused," Carney told ABC News reporter Jake Tapper.

"The President is having meetings with his senior staff."

"The President has called on Congress to move quickly on things that are -- have bipartisan support and are in Congress’s lap..."

"He is working very closely with his senior economic advisors to come up with new proposals to help advance growth and job creation.  He is working with members of Congress to help advance growth and job creation."

Carney also told Tapper, "We believe that growth and job creation will continue."

Asked by another reporter if the president is doing anything outside the box, Carney replied, "There is no silver bullet and I have not heard one proposed by anyone in Washington or beyond that there is a silver bullet to help our economy grow faster or create jobs."

No silver bullet, maybe -- but how about "smaller bullets," the reporter followed-up.

Carney responded that Obama in recent weeks has "put forward a historic fuel-efficiency standards agreement" with the auto industry "that will result in enormous, $1.7 trillion in savings for Americans consumers and will create jobs...in the clean energy industry."

Carney said the president also is helping financially strapped homeowners "by giving them additional forbearance in paying their mortgages.  So there are small things, medium-sized things, and big things that this President has done and will continue to do, and will look forward to doing.  And he will work with Congress to do all of them."

The president celebrated his 50th birthday at the White House on Thursday, the day after returning from a round of fund-raisers in Chicago. In mid-August, he hits the campaign trail on a bus trip to the Midwest.

A partial transcript of Thursday's briefing, taken from the White House Web site, is printed below:

Q (Jake Tapper of ABC News): I believe the Dow has gone down -- and obviously the day is not over -- but I believe the Dow has gone down now more than during the controversial TARP vote.  And analysts are saying that the reason that this is happening is because of uncertainty about the American economy, that we are entering a double-dip recession, or at the very least a period of real softness and weakness for the U.S. economy.  What is the administration doing to prepare for that?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, the analysis I saw today did not -- was not about the American economy, particularly in terms of what’s happening, but there are obviously -- there are a lot of global issues that affect the global economy and that obviously affect the American economy. 

We strongly believe, as I’ve said, that we will continue to grow and we will continue to create jobs and we need to take the measures necessary to do that.  We have encountered in this calendar year a number of economic headwinds that could not have been foreseen -- the tsunami -- earthquake and tsunami in Japan that disrupted global supply chains, the unrest in the Middle East, which had an impact on oil prices, and the situation in Europe.

So obviously that has hurt the economy globally and has slowed growth and job creation, but we believe that growth and job creation will continue.

Q    But what is the President doing?  What is -- we know that he went to a -- he went to fundraisers last night.  What is he doing today?

MR. CARNEY:  Jake, that is --

Q    What is he doing --

MR. CARNEY:  The President has worked --

Q    He stood up there and hectored Congress about all the stuff that needs to be done to help create jobs, and this needs to take place --

MR. CARNEY:  That’s right, and Congress --

Q    -- and then he flew off to Chicago.  What’s he doing today?

MR. CARNEY:  Congress has -- the President is having meetings with his senior staff.  The President has called on Congress to move quickly on things that are -- have bipartisan support and are in Congress’s lap -- the trade --

Q    So the same stuff he was doing a couple of months ago, calling on Congress to pass things?

MR. CARNEY:  Congress has the power to pass legislation that the President can sign.  The actions that it can take could create more jobs right now if it passed the patent reform, if it passed the free trade agreements, and, as you know, there are other issues that the President encourages and will push hard for the Congress to take up when it returns from its recess, including extension of the payroll tax cut, which would put -- which has this year put an additional $1,000 in the pockets of every American or typical American family.  And he believes we need to do that again next year, because that assists those families in having -- giving them the ability to make ends meet and puts money back into the economy, which in turn sustains businesses and creates jobs.

And he will continue to come up with and propose measures that we in Washington, together, can take to spur further economic growth and job creation.

Q    Has he called Mitch McConnell?  Has he called John Boehner?  Has he -- is he working on things that they can do?  If every --

MR. CARNEY:  Jake, I don’t -- I know you weren’t here yesterday, but I know you were here for most of the days before that, when this President and those leaders and others worked seven days a week to avert a major economic crisis in this country that would have made --

Q    You’re the one that’s always saying the President can walk and chew gum at the same time.  I’m asking you --

MR. CARNEY:  But what are -- are you asking me --

Q    What is he doing?

MR. CARNEY:  He is focused --

Q    Other than calling on Congress to pass things that you’ve been calling on Congress to pass for months -- what is he doing to help the economy?

MR. CARNEY:  He is working very closely with his senior economic advisors to come up with new proposals to help advance growth and job creation.  He is working with members of Congress to help advance growth and job creation.  And he will continue to do that.  There are things that Congress can do now to create jobs, and they should; there are things that Congress will be able to do when they return from recess to help create jobs and spur growth, and they should.  And he looks forward to working with Congress to do that.

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Q    But just to continue on Jake’s thought, what else can the President do?  I mean, he does make -- we hear often from the podium here that he is making calls, that Congress needs to do more.  Is there anything out of the box that he’s looking for?

MR. CARNEY:  As I said yesterday, there is no silver bullet and I have not heard one proposed by anyone in Washington or beyond that there is a silver bullet to help our economy grow faster or create jobs.

Q    Is he looking at other kinds of smaller bullets, then?

MR. CARNEY:  I would note that just in recent weeks, as he was negotiating with a Congress that seemed hell bent in many ways on precipitating an economic catastrophe, he also passed historic -- or put forward a historic fuel-efficiency standards agreement with 13 major auto manufacturers at his side that will result in enormous -- $1.7 trillion in savings for American consumers and will create jobs in an industry that the United States of America should own in the 21st century, which is the clean energy industry.

So he has also -- he took a measure to allow for loan -- mortgage forbearance for the unemployed, to help those folks who are unemployed stay in their houses by giving them additional forbearance in paying their mortgages.  So there are small things, medium-sized things, and big things that this President has done and will continue to do, and will look forward to doing.  And he will work with Congress to do all of them.