WASHINGTON (CN) – President Obama on Monday urged Americans to adopt a long-term perspective toward economic growth versus expecting a “quick fix,” saying it would take time to see significant improvement in the economy.
“It’s slow and steady, as opposed to the quick fix that a lot of people would like to see,” Obama told a group gathered for a town hall meeting at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.
“It took us a decade to get into the problem that we’re in right now,” he said, adding that the middle class had been struggling even before the 2008 financial crisis hit. “Something that took ten years to create is going to take a little time to resolve.”
“Quite frankly, I’m exhausted,” one woman said, explaining that she was tired of defending Obama as her choice for president when he had not made meaningful changes that he had promised during his presidential campaign. The woman, who is chief financial officer of a veterans organization and is sending one of her children to college next year, said she and her husband used to joke that they were beyond the days of eating hot dogs and beans, but now were questioning if those days were no longer behind them. “I’m waiting, sir. I don’t feel it yet. Is this my new reality?” she asked.
“Times are tough for everybody right now,” Obama said, outlining aspects of financial and health care reform that might help her, including additional money for student loans as well as new credit card protections. “Maybe you’re not seeing it yet,” he said.
Obama said Americans had to adopt a medium and long-term perspective toward economic growth. Obama said his priority now is making long-term investments that do not endanger the current recovery. A top priority, he said, is improving infrastructure. While Europe spends 5 percent of its GDP on infrastructure and China spends 9 percent, the United States only dedicates 2 percent of its GDP to infrastructure, Obama said.
A 30 year-old audience member who recently graduated from law school said he could not make the interest payments on his student loans, much less think about paying for a wedding.
“Is the American dream dead for me?” he asked.
“Absolutely not,” Obama said. Obama emphasized that billions of people around the world still want to come to the United States, a country that has the best universities and most productive workers. “Any country in the world would want to trade places with us.”
And as for the wedding, Obama said, “Whatever the expense, it’s worth it,” sporting a huge smile.
Obama painted himself as friend, not foe, to business, saying he has overseen eight small business tax cuts during his administration thus far and was encouraging research and development in the business community and looking for ways to accelerate business investment on the domestic front and not overseas.
“My entire focus is to make sure that the private sector is thriving and growing,” Obama said. “We’re moving in the right direction.”