Obama volunteers mistakes in Twitter town hall

The first questioner in the White House’s “Twitter Town Hall” asked President Barack Obama about the mistakes he had made while in office, and he promptly volunteered his government’s inability to reverse the steep decline in housing prices and to meet the public’s expectation of a quick economic recovery.

Most of the time, however, President Barack Obama used today’s event to repeat his campaign themes, debt ceiling pitch, and proposals to cut defense spending.

One thing he would have “done differently,” Obama said, “would have been to explain to the American people that it was going to take a while for us to get out of this” recession. “Even I did not realize the magnitude — because most economists didn’t realize the magnitude — of the recession … [and so] people were not prepared for how long this would take.”

“I take responsibility for that because setting people’s expectations is part of how you end up being able to respond well,” he said.

Republicans say Obama’s policies have slowed the recovery from the recession. Businesses are reluctant to expand production or to hire staff for fear that new government regulations, such as health care rules, would increase their costs faster than their revenues could rise, say Republicans and business lobbyists.

“The other area is housing,” he said. “The continuing decline in the housing market hasn’t bottomed out as quickly as we expected … that has probably been the most stubborn of problems.”

The decline in housing prices came after the massive government-driven bubble in housing prices seen during the last 10 years. That bubble was spurred by government policies dating back to the 1980s and 1990s, and it burst when many low-income people were unable to afford their large mortgages.

The collapsed real estate market wrecked balance sheets on Wall Street and collapsed many complex financial deals. (White House uses Twitter to bully critics)

Since his inauguration, Obama has said he has revamped government policy to offset the property collapse, and to keep people in their houses.

Whenever house values shrink below mortgage values, “that obviously burdens a lot of folks … they don’t feel like they have any assets,” and so they’re less likely to spend, Obama said. Administration officials “are working with mortgage issuers and service companies [and] homeowners who are trying to do the right thing, to see if they can modify the loans to make their payments lower … or even to reduce the [mortgage] principal, so they don’t walk away,” he said. The housing collapse, he said, is a “big drag” on the economy.

When pitching his campaign themes and his debt ceiling preferences, Obama called for federal “investment” programs, for tax increases, and for defense cuts.

Tax increases on “millionaires and billionaires,” he said, “would raise hundreds of billions of dollars … [and] we could solve our deficit and debt problems” with some additional spending cuts, he said. “This is not something that requires radical solutions. … And that’s what I’ve proposed,” he said.

Defense spending can be cut gradually, Obama said, because it includes unneeded programs. “The nice thing about the defense budget,” he said, is that “a one percent reduction is the equivalent to the education budget.”

“It is not,” Obama immediately added. “I’m exaggerating, but it is so big that you can make relatively modest changes in defense … to fund things like basic research or student loans,” he said.

In April 2011, the federal Department of Education was given $69 billion for the fiscal year. The Department of Defense’s budget amounted to $534 billion.

However, Obama made clear that he did not want any spending cuts in welfare programs. “There are some [welfare] programs that can always be improved, and if there are some programs that don’t work, we should have the courage to eliminate them and put that money into programs that do work,” he said.

Throughout the event, Obama touted his campaign themes of government support for education and research, for federal spending on “green” energy projects, and for government health sector spending.

But the questions approved by the eight Twitter-approved gatekeepers largely ignored  controversies like Obamacare and foreign policy, as well as social issues, such as marriage, abortion or gay rights.

The gatekeepers selected questions that allowed Obama to endorse government intervention in the economy, to promote his pending priorities, and to lay out his stance in the debt ceiling controversy.

When asked about welfare, for example, Obama called for a shift in government spending from welfare programs deemed failures towards programs deemed successful. “Some welfare programs of the past were not well designed, and in some case did encourage dependency,” he said. “I’ve seen it, where people weren’t encouraged to work, to upgrade their skills, [and] were just getting paid a check … and over time, their motivations started to diminish,” he said.

Government aid to manufacturing is needed, he said, because “manufacturing jobs end up having higher wages, and they also have bigger multiplier effects … one manufacturing jobs can support a range of other jobs,” such as suppliers and restaurants, he said. “It would be nice if we were making the iPods and iPads in the United States,” he added.

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  • jmk1502

    The 4th section of the 14th Amendment states the following:

    “The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned.”

    This means is against the Constitution, illegal, whatever you want to call it for the US to not raise the debt ceiling and default. Technically, those in Congress and the President could be impeached by not raising the debt ceiling. So Obama is right in taking a hard line against the far-right obdurate partisan shills in the GOP. All he has to do is unilaterally order the treasury of the secretary to continue to honor America’s debts. The howling and screaming about doing what’s right for the country and avoiding another financial disaster will be deafening from the Grand Obstructionist Party, but if you research this issue most legal scholars Obama would be fully within the law in taking this action. Its high time Obama stopped trying to compromise with the pigheaded demagogues on the other side of the aisle, and do what’s best for the country.

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  • kamraguy

    woah! I think I just stumbled into the printing office of the KKK!!!

    • russ311

      Quick! Pull your skirt up over your head and HIDE!

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  • tdogco

    True, try as they might they can’t fix STUPID which is what this administration and its failed ideology are and fast becoming apparent to most of America, even the blacks and communists.

  • dookhh

    The dem internal polls must be REALLY ugly for Obama. When you do an event like the twitter thing, you can’t control who twitters in so your opponents get just as much face time as you do, that’s not a grand slam for your side, it is a risk that it might not even be a net positive. What I have noticed is that every time the president’s poll numbers get down below 47-48, they freak out and try to do something to pull them back up. Bin Laden brought them back for a while, remember how they said he was a shoo in for a couple weeks till they were back down. Then they released oil for the strategic reserve, in a reversal of their claim to be ok with energy prices skyrocketing, got a tiny short lived bounce, but now they say prices of oil will be really high right before the 2012 election and they are already going way back up. The Afghan pull out came in the same way, poll numbers down- panic and “do something”
    to try to get them up- that didn’t work cause you didn’t please the base by pulling out enough and displeased as many as you pleased. Now we are hearing that the liberals want Ginsburg to step down so that Obama can put Karl Marx on the supreme court because they are beginning to see(and admit it which is huge at this point- a year out plus till the elections?) that he might not make it? Their internal polls must be horrific….this is what happens when a far leftist regime gains ultimate power in a country where less than 1 third will self describe themselves as liberal…..

  • doncicciofitipaldi

    Please stop smoking so much!