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THE PRESIDENT: But historically, if you look at every recession, what happens is that when the economy starts getting in trouble, it takes a while before businesses decide, you know what, this economy is in trouble, it’s not bouncing back — we better start laying off workers. So what we’re seeing now is a lot of businesses have decided that our sales are way down, we’ve got to start shedding workers. And that’s going to continue for a while.
Now, the reverse is true, as well. When the economy starts recovering, when these businesses start being a little more confident that, you know what, we think we’ve bottomed out; the recovery package President Obama passed gives us some optimism about making investments in certain areas — it takes a while before they start hiring even if they’ve started to make these investments.
So the reason I point that out is, I don’t want people to think that in one or two months suddenly we’re going to see net job increases. It’s going to take some time for the steps that we’ve taken to filter in. The fact that the housing market is starting to stabilize a little bit — there’s still a lot of inventory out there before people then actually start building new homes. At some point people are going to start buying new cars again, but it’s going to take a little bit of time for the automakers to get back on their feet.
So employment is something that we’re going to have a difficult time for the next several months, maybe through the end of this year, but I’m confident that we’re taking the steps that are required to create these new jobs of the future.
DR. BERNSTEIN: After the last recession ended in 2001, the unemployment rate went up for another 19 months before it started coming back down.
This next question — an area close to your heart — health care reform. From Richard in California: “Why can we not have a universal health care system, like many European countries, where people are treated based on needs rather than financial resources?”
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, I was in this room last month in what we called a health care forum. And we brought all the members of Congress, Republicans and Democrats who were interested in this issue; we brought together various constituency groups, insurance companies, drug companies, you name it. And my message to them was: Now is the time to reform the health care system — not four years from now, not eight years from now, not 20 years from now. Now.