WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama promised on Saturday to do everything necessary to boost the economy out of recession and warned, in an opening shot at critics of his budget proposals, that the country had tough choices ahead.
Obama, who has rolled out a series of proposals to address the economic crisis since taking office on January 20, expressed confidence those initiatives would work even as jobless figures rise and the economic picture worsens.
“From the day I took office, I knew that solving this crisis would not be easy, nor would it happen overnight, and we will continue to face difficult days in the months ahead,” he said in his weekly radio address.
“My administration is committed to doing all that’s necessary to address this crisis and lead us to a better day.”
But in an interview with The New York Times published on its website, he said he could not assure Americans the economy would start growing again later this year.
“I don’t know that anyone has that kind of crystal ball,” Obama was quoted as saying aboard Air Force One on Friday.
The president said in the interview that he expected his administration to “get all the pillars in place for recovery this year” and he urged Americans to keep spending and not “stuff money in their mattress.”
“How long it will take before recovery actually translates into stronger job markets and so forth is going to depend on a whole range of factors,” Obama said.
Obama’s comments were not as positive as the projections underlying the federal budget he recently presented that suggested the economy would start bouncing back in the second half of 2009.
While using his radio speech to tout his stimulus bill and measures to prevent home foreclosures, he also previewed a potential fight over his $3.5 trillion budget for fiscal year 2010.
“Like every family going through hard times, our country must make tough choices,” he said. “In order to pay for the things we need -- we cannot waste money on the things we don‘t.”
Obama, a Democrat, made clear one thing the country needed was healthcare reform, saying that process would help reduce the massive budget deficit and spur economic growth.
The White House hosted a summit on Thursday to kick-start the process of reducing healthcare costs and expanding coverage to uninsured Americans. U.S. healthcare costs have grown to $2.5 trillion annually and the ranks of the uninsured have swollen to 46 million people.
Representative Roy Blunt, in the weekly Republican radio address, warned of too much government involvement in the healthcare system.
“Some people are spending a lot of time talking about how to spend more of your money on bigger government run programs,” Blunt said. “I‘m concerned that if the government steps in it will eventually push out the private health care plans millions of Americans enjoy today.”
Obama’s budget, released last month, includes a 10-year $634 billion reserve fund to help pay for his healthcare reforms.
In his radio address, Obama linked budgeting procedures under previous administrations to callous behavior on Wall Street that helped cause the financial and economic crises.
Additional reporting by Matt Spetalnick; Editing by Xavier Briand