I don’t think there’s any doubt that 2009 is going to be difficult, and, again, when you put a human face on this crisis, the way people experience it most immediately is losing their job, losing their home, losing their savings, losing their pensions. And what I think each of us is committed to doing is to make sure that people are getting immediate help, even as we’re solving these broader structural problems, because we don’t want that kind of suffering, but it’s also not good for the overall health of the economic system.
And that’s part of where stimulus has been very helpful. I mean, in our country, the unemployment insurance, the food stamps, the other mechanisms that have put money directly into people’s pockets, that’s not just good for those individual families; it’s also helped to lift consumer spending, or at least stabilize consumer spending in a way that will promise better growth in the future.
Q Thank you, Mr. President, Mr. Prime Minister. Mr. President, you just spoke about looking forward and not backward, and you also referenced the voracious appetite of the American consumer. What role should the European and American consumer then play in the quarter that starts today? Should they be spending or saving to alter the velocity of what you just called a slow-rolling crisis?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, I think that each family has got to look at its circumstances and make those determinations. Obviously, there are a lot of people who are concerned about their job security, or they’re concerned about seeing their savings having diminished if they were in the stock market, and I think it’s an understandable response to be somewhat cautious in the midst of this kind of uncertainty.
I think the best advice I would have would be to say that despite the current hardships, we are going to get through this, and so you should plan sensibly, in anticipation that this economy is going to recover and new — young families are going to want to buy new homes, and sooner or later that clunker of a car is going to wear out and people are going to want to buy a new car. And so that basing decisions around fear is — is not the right way to go.
We are going to get through this difficult time. And I think it is sometimes important to step back and just have some perspective about the differences between now and the Great Depression, when there were no social safety nets in place; when unemployment was 25 or 30 percent. This is a difficult time, but it’s not what happened to our grandparents’ generation.