Transcript: Obama’s Interview With Regional Reporters

THE PRESIDENT: So I usually don’t start these off with a long statement. Obviously our overarching focus right now is the economy. I am very mindful of the hardships that are taking place all throughout the country — families who are losing their homes, losing their jobs, losing their health care. I get a sampling of the letters that are sent to me every day, and some of the stories are just heartbreaking.

And everything that we’re doing is focused on not only pulling this economy out of what is the worst recession since the Great Depression, but also looking at ways that we can set a foundation for long-term economic growth. You know, the days of growing the economy through an overheated housing market or through people running up exorbitant credit card bills is over.

We’ve got to put our growth model on a different footing, and that means that we’ve got to deal with our health care system and reduce costs for families, businesses and governments. It means that we have to think through our energy policy so that we’re not so badly dependent on foreign oil. It means we’ve got to improve our education system so that our young people are equipped with the skills and knowledge that they’re going to need to get jobs in the future.

And so the Recovery and Reinvestment Act that we passed reflected those priorities. You know, we had tax cuts to the middle class, but also investments on health information technologies and doubling renewable energy; a enormous effort to jumpstart school reform at the same time as we are providing some much needed relief to states so that they wouldn’t be laying off teachers and firefighters and cops; and that we could rebuild our infrastructure.

The budget that I’ve now prepared and will be going before Congress and debated over the next month reflects many of those common priorities, and we’re going to be building off of the progress that we made in the first 50 days. Now is the time I think for us to deal with health care in a serious way and start reducing costs as well as expand coverage. We’re going to have to keep pushing on the energy front not just with things like the smart grid, but also figuring out how do we move to more renewable energies.

And on education, how do we build on the reforms that we talked about during the campaign and that are funded at least temporarily through the stimulus package. And I gave a major speech on education priorities yesterday.

I think that there’s going to be some battles surrounding this budget. There always are. Obviously at the same time as we’re moving this budget forward, I’m spending probably the majority of my time stabilizing the financial system. There are some who’ve argued that we can’t do all of these things at once and that we should instead just focus on Wall Street and banking, and not deal with the enormous pressures that families

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