In an interview Friday afternoon on Air Force One en route to Chicago, President Obama shared his with a small group of columnists.
Now that Congress has approved his economic recovery plan, he was asked, what's his plan for the rest of 2009? Here's his reply:
THE PRESIDENT: My priorities for the rest of the year. Number one is to get the right structure for the successor to TARP; spending the $300-some billion that has already been authorised as wisely as possible, and injecting transparency and trust into the financial system. Having a housing program that provides relief to people who are at risk of losing their homes. Financial regulations that ensure that the crisis doesn't happen again. A innovative and aggressive push for health care reform that focuses not just on access but also on costs, and trying to just provide relief to working families. And a push for an energy policy that puts us on a path to sustainability.
You asked given what we inherited, are we going to be able to get all this done. Some of these reforms don't cost money. They will still be heavy political lifts because there are philosophical arguments about how to approach it. Some of these problems are very complicated. Health care is a classic situation where it may cost money on the front end and save enormous money on the back end and what we're going to have to figure out is what can we do now to start getting that ball rolling, because the longer we put that off, the worse off we are financially. Medicare and Medicaid on their current trajectory cannot be sustained. And the only way I think we're going to fix it is if we see those two problems in the broader contest of bending the curve down on health care inflation....I should add one more thing and that is a budget process that starts bending the deficit curve down. I think that all these goals are complementary. I also think that the American people understand we won't get everything done overnight. The U.S. government and the U.S. economy are enormous ocean liners, they're not speedboats. So what we will do this year is to try to get them on the right trajectory and hopefully that means at the end of my term you'll look back and you'll say we're at a different place than we would have been had we not made these changes.
Footnote: one White House aide says to look for Obama to convene his fiscal responsibility summit-an effort to build consensus for long-term deficit reduction- on the day before his economic speech to Congress on February 24. Later that week, Peter Orszag, the Office of Management and Budget director, will unveil the framework of Obama's first budget.