Obama defends budget as essential to recovery

President Obama said Tuesday "there are no quick fixes" to pull the economy out of recession, but he insisted the country will recover.

In his second prime time news conference, Obama called on Americans to look to the future with a “renewed confidence that a better day will come.” “We will recover from this recession,” the president said. “But it will take time, it will take patience, and it will take an understanding that when we all work together; when each of us looks beyond our own short-term interests to the wider set of obligations we have toward each other — that’s when we succeed.” Watch Obama’s opening remarks » Despite criticism from Republicans who have called his proposed budget — expected to drive up the deficit over the next decade — “irresponsible,” the president pledged that his administration will cut the deficit in half over the next five years. Watch Obama promise to halve the deficit » “I suspect some Republican critics have a short-term memory,” Obama told reporters. “Because, as I recall, I am inheriting a $1.3 trillion annual deficit from them.” Watch what iReporters would ask the president » Obama said the budget he has proposed is “inseparable” from the overall strategy for economic recovery. Obama told the country that his administration has put in place “a comprehensive strategy designed to attack this crisis on all fronts.” “It’s a strategy to create jobs, to help responsible homeowners, to restart lending, and to grow our economy over the long term. And we are beginning to see signs of progress,” he said. Watch: Obama says he sees progress »

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“The budget I submitted to Congress will build our economic recovery on a stronger foundation, so that we don’t face another crisis like this 10 or 20 years from now,” he said. Asked whether he would sign a budget that doesn’t include a middle-class tax cut, Obama said he has “emphasized repeatedly” what his expectations are. “I haven’t seen yet what provisions are in there,” Obama said. “The bottom line is that I want to see health care, energy, education and serious efforts to reduce our budget deficit. And there are going to be details that still need to be worked out.” Obama’s appearance comes on the heels of the unveiling of the Treasury Department’s new bank rescue plan. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner on Monday announced a plan to remove troubled assets from banks’ books by partnering with private investors. The goal is to buy up at least $500 billion of existing assets and loans, such as subprime mortgages that are now in danger of default. Following the announcement of the plan, the stock market rallied, posting the biggest gains in months. Obama said he supports Geithner’s push to seize financial institutions whose failure would pose serious risks to the U.S. financial system. “Keep in mind that it is precisely because of the lack of this authority that the AIG situation has gotten worse,” Obama said, referring to the troubled insurance giant. It was revealed last week that AIG doled out massive bonuses to executives after receiving more than $170 billion in bailout funds. Pressed about why he waited three days to publicly speak out against AIG paying out the bonuses, Obama told reporters, “It took us a couple of days because I like to think about what I’m talking about before I speak.” Obama’s prime time news conference marks the second of his administration. The president made the rounds on television this past week, with an appearance on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” and an interview on CBS’s “60 Minutes.” On the morning of the news conference, Obama reached out to citizens of the world in an op-ed piece that ran in 31 newspapers around the world. In the op-ed, Obama said there is an urgent need for worldwide economic cooperation and spoke about the upcoming G-20 meeting. The G-20 meeting, in which leaders of the world’s richest nations will discuss the global economic downturn, takes place next week in London, England.

In his first prime time news conference, the president used the national platform to make the case for his economic stimulus plan, which has since been passed by Congress and signed into law. Obama took questions from 13 different reporters at the February news conference. Eight questions were about the economy, three were about foreign policy and one was about creating a truth and reconciliation committee to investigate the Bush administration.