President Barack Obama fielded questions yesterday from Americans across the U.S., including House Speaker John Boehner, as he defended his economic policies a day before meeting with congressional leaders to seek a compromise on the deficit and debt ceiling.
Responding to queries submitted via Twitter Inc., Obama told one questioner that if he could do something over he would have prepared Americans better for the slow pace of recovery by the economy and housing markets.
“People may not have been prepared for how long this was going to take,” Obama said during an event billed as a “Twitter Town Hall,” after he was asked whether he had made mistakes in handling the economy.
The president, seated in the East Room of the White House, gave spoken answers to posts sent in Twitter’s 140-character-or- less format.
Boehner sent a message asking: “After embarking on a record spending binge that’s left us deeper in debt, where are the jobs?”
“This is a slightly skewed question,” Obama responded, saying he agrees with the Ohio Republican that “we have not seen fast enough job growth relative to the need.” Obama said his administration has backed tax cuts for small businesses and other steps that have helped reverse job losses and fuel private job creation.
Obama said he would consider tax credits for companies that hire veterans, along with a marketing campaign to encourage private companies to employ veterans.
The event, lasting more than an hour, marked an effort by the administration to reach people beyond radio, television and newspapers, extending to social networking and interactive media sources.
The White House has 2.25 million Twitter followers. The Twitter event follows earlier Obama town-hall-style formats with Facebook and Google Inc. (GOOG)’s YouTube. Questions were moderated by Jack Dorsey, the co-founder and executive chairman of Twitter Inc.
Obama answered questions before today’s scheduled meeting with congressional leaders to press for an agreement on cutting the federal deficit and raising the government’s $14.3 trillion debt ceiling.
Obama said the debt limit “is something we shouldn’t be toying with.” A U.S. default could cause a downgrade in the nation’s credit rating, an increase in interest rates and a potential “spiral into a second recession, or worse,” Obama said.
“The debt ceiling should not be something that is used as a gun against the heads of the American people” to protect tax breaks for corporate jet owners and energy companies.
Obama declined to comment when asked whether he thinks the Constitution’s 14th Amendment gives the executive branch the duty to honor U.S. obligations regardless of a congressional debt ceiling.
To kick off the event, Obama used a laptop and typed out his first message on Twitter, asking the online service’s users: “In order to reduce the deficit, what costs would you cut and what investments would you keep?”
A map tracked messages streaming in from Twitter users around the country.
Beside jobs, the president answered questions on housing, education, alternative energy, collective bargaining rights, immigrant entrepreneurs, welfare, space exploration and tax increases for the wealthy.
The government is scheduled to report last month’s U.S. unemployment rate tomorrow, and economists surveyed by Bloomberg News expect the Labor Department to report that employers added 100,000 workers in June, after a 54,000 increase in May.
The jobless rate is forecast to be unchanged at 9.1 percent.
Payroll increases of around 200,000 a month are needed for a sustained decline in the unemployment rate, according to Scott Brown, chief economist at Raymond James & Associates Inc. in St. Petersburg, Florida.
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