December 8, 2009 / 8:35 PM / 10 years ago

Obama packs political punch into economic speech

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama packed an economic speech with a political punch on Tuesday, blaming Republicans for creating high deficits, mismanaging bank bailouts and obstructing efforts to reform healthcare.

U.S. President Barack Obama delivers a speech on the economy at the Brookings Institution in Washington, December 8, 2009. REUTERS/Jason Reed

Obama, a Democrat, announced new measures to spur job growth, but he spent a good chunk of his speech defending his record and tarring the opposition party for its mistakes.

Exhibit A: the budget deficit. Obama has taken hits for proposing programs that require government spending, but he is quick to remind people that he “inherited” a $1.3 trillion deficit when he took over as president in January.

“Folks passed tax cuts and expansive entitlement programs without paying for any of it — even as healthcare costs kept rising, year after year,” he said, referring to Republicans.

“And I’d note: These budget-busting tax cuts and spending programs were approved by many of the same people who are now waxing political about fiscal responsibility, while opposing our efforts to reduce deficits by getting healthcare costs under control,” he said. “It’s a sight to see.”

Republicans said they wanted to make sure Obama used money saved from the bank bailout fund, the TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program) to reduce the deficit as it was intended.

“Americans are running out of patience with politicians who promise jobs, but who deliver nothing but more debt, higher taxes and longer unemployment lines,” said Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell.

Republicans consider Obama’s efforts to overhaul the healthcare insurance industry too expensive.

The president’s attacks did not stop there. He also landed a dig about the TARP rescue fund, launched under the administration of his Republican predecessor, George W. Bush.

“Launched hastily — understandably, but hastily — under the last administration, the TARP program was flawed,” he said. “Because of our stewardship of this program, and the transparency and accountability we put in place, TARP is expected to cost the taxpayers at least $200 billion less than what was anticipated just this past summer.”

Note that he takes credit for that success. The same theme applied to improving economic trends, which Obama said was thanks in part to his $787 billion package — which Republicans also largely opposed.

Criticism aside, Obama joked that he had second thoughts about taking over the White House when he realized shortly after his election just how bad things really were.

“Having concluded that it was too late for me to request a recount, I tasked my team with mapping out a plan to tackle the crisis on all fronts,” he said to laughter in the audience.

Editing by Diona Chiacu

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