Sun, Dec 11, 2011 - Page 11 News List

Obama says US economic fix may take several years

LONG HAUL:Barack Obama said he thought it was likely to take more than just one president to reverse the ‘structural problems’ that have built up over decades

Reuters, Washington

Despite some recent signs the sluggish US economy might be improving, US President Barack Obama warned it could be years before the country is on a sound footing.

In excerpts from an interview with CBS’ 60 Minutes program that will air today, Obama was asked whether he underestimated how difficult it would be to fix the US economy when he became president in 2009.

“I always believed that this was a long-term project,” the Democratic president told 60 Minutes.

He added it would “take time” to reverse “structural problems in our economy that have been building up for two decades.”

Obama added in the excerpts, released on Friday, that he thought “it was going to take more than two years. It was going to take more than one term. Probably takes more than one president.”

When asked whether he thought the US unemployment rate might drop to 8 percent by next November’s US presidential and congressional elections, Obama said: “I think it’s possible, but ... I’m not in the job of prognosticating on the economy.”

Reducing unemployment is considered key to Obama’s re-election chances next year.

The US jobs picture has improved in recent weeks, with the national unemployment rate falling to 8.6 percent from 9 percent. The government also reported this week that the number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits dropped to a nine-month low last week.

However, even an 8 percent unemployment rate is considered high — a 4 percent or 5 percent rate is seen as about normal — and if it stays high in coming months, it could complicate Obama’s hopes for re-election.

Some independent economists have suggested the national unemployment rate is likely to be in the range of 8 percent to 9 percent, leaving millions unemployed over the long run.

A new CBS News poll has Obama’s approval rating at 44 percent, with 54 percent of respondents saying he did not deserve a second four-year term.

Only 33 percent gave Obama good marks for his handling of the economy, the lowest of his presidency, according to the CBS poll released on Friday.

Republicans are in the process of deciding their party’s presidential nominee to challenge Obama. Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and former House of Representatives speaker Newt Gingrich are considered the front-runners.

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