Gloomy reports on gross domestic product and housing have raised fears the fragile economy could slip back into a recession or face a lengthy period of growth that is too slow to make much of a dent in the 9.5% unemployment rate.
The economy is still growing, but its not growing as fast as it needs to, Obama told NBC in the interview in New Orleans, where he stopped after a vacation on the Massachusetts island of Marthas Vineyard.
Obama faces a dilemma in trying to reassure Americans about the economy without appearing to be out of touch with frustrations, which have been rising over the sluggish growth and scarcity of jobs.
The economy is the top issue in the November 2 congressional elections, where Obamas Democrats are bracing for potentially big losses to Republicans. Obamas first week back at the White House will be heavily focused on foreign policy issues. He is set to deliver an address on the Iraq war from the Oval Office on Tuesday night and hosts a summit on Middle East peace on Wednesday and Thursday.
Obama gave little indication in the interview of any new proposals that might be unveiled in the near future. He noted that the short-term politics of the election season might make it hard to get such measures passed.
Were in the silly seasonpolitical season, which means that for the next two months theres gonna be constantly a contest in the minds of members of Congress, he said.
But he urged the US Congress to pass some of his existing proposals such as plans aimed at spurring lending to small businesses and tax breaks for such firms. He also touted his initiatives to encourage investment in clean energy. We should be passing legislation that helps small businesses get credit, that eliminates capital gains taxes so that they have more incentive to invest right now, he said.