The First Draft: Obama courts autoworkers, Biden visits Iraq

September 15, 2009

President Barack Obama courts autoworkers in Ohio and union leaders in Pennsylvania on Tuesday.

Obama meets workers at a General Motors plant in Lordstown, Ohio, and later addresses a convention of the AFL-CIO labor federation in Pittsburgh.
Vice President Joe Biden is in Iraq for visits with U.S. troops and Iraqi leaders.

Back in Washington, Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, briefs lawmakers on the war in Afghanistan.

And Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus is still pushing to finalize his panel’s proposal for reforming the U.S. healthcare system this week.

A USA Today poll published on Tuesday showed Americans split over healthcare reform, even after Obama’s pitch to a joint session of Congress last week. The poll said 50 percent favored reform and 47 percent opposed it.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said on Tuesday Obama is committed to getting the U.S. fiscal house in order once the economy is on a solid footing.

He said Obama could do that without breaking his campaign pledge not to raise taxes on people earning less than $250,000 per year.

“We can get our fiscal house in order, we can go back as a country to a point where we’re living within our means, without violating that fiscal commitment,” Geithner told ABC’s “Good Morning America” program.

FINANCIAL/BAILOUT-GEITHNERGeithner said the U.S. economy was not yet in a real recovery.

“We define recovery, and the president will define a recovery, as people back to work, people able to get a job again, business investing again,” he said. “And we are not at the point where we can say that yet.”

He said the administration was eager to unwind the huge investments it made in U.S. banks, automakers and other businesses as it struggled to prevent economic collapse.

“The government had to do some deeply offensive things to help contain the damage,” he said. “And we will get out of that as quickly as we can.”

“We’re not going to keep a penny in the financial system or in the U.S. economy longer than we think is absolutely necessary,” Geithner said, but he acknowledged it would take more than a year.

Former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer told CNN that Geithner was to blame for the problem because he did not act as an effective regulator of New York’s financial institutions while he was head of the New York Federal Reserve Bank.

“The New York Fed is what got us to where we are because they permitted this leverage,” Spitzer said. “Tim Geithner, when he was up for secretary of the Treasury, said, ‘I have never been a regulator.’ He didn’t understand what his job was as president of the New York Fed.”

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Photo credit: Reuters/John Gress (Presidential candidate Obama addresses autoworkers Feb. 13, 2008, in Wisconsin); Reuters/Hyungwon Kang (Protesters pester Geithner at a congressional hearing Sept. 10, 2009)

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