President Barack Obama hosted the White House’s first-ever Twitter town hall meeting Wednesday afternoon in which he answered questions on the American economy and jobs. All questions, submitted via Twitter, where answered in a live forum to a small audience. Many of the questions were preselected.
Mr. Obama opened the forum by posting a Tweet in which he asked: "In order to reduce the deficit, what costs would you cut and what investments would you keep?" He responded by stating that determinations need to be made that will help the United States grow by eliminating waste. Debate over what constitutes a necessity versus government waste, he said, will continue through upcoming weeks.
When asked what mistakes he made in dealing with the existing recession and how he would handle it differently, Obama replied with two points. First, he explained to the American people that it would take awhile to get out of the recession, as no one fully understood the magnitude of it, and, second, housing, which has not bottomed out as quickly as expected.
Transforming the U.S. into a competitive force appeared to be a significant theme throughout the president’s responses to Twitter questions. Obama testified to “supporting the troops” by encouraging oil independence, asserting it is “good for the economy, good for security, and good for the planet.” Technology and manufacturing industries are thriving and need to be encouraged domestically in order to make America competitive. An emphasis on improved training and affordable higher education, in addition to the acceleration of investment bio-fuels and alternative energy, are needed to complement this.
Welfare payments, Obama argued, are not a significant force behind the national deficit as the majority of funds go towards people who want work but cannot find employment. He encouraged individuals to enter and maintain their position in the workforce. He also reaffirmed support of collective bargaining and said it had a place in a “competitive market” even as he acknowledged that public sector benefits were perhaps too generous relative to the private sector.
Obama emphasized making permanent Bush tax cuts for low-to-middle earners who are “struggling” while solving the debt issue with a “smart, balanced, common sense” approach. He again argued that a modest increase in taxes for wealthy individuals is required to balance tax breaks for lower classes, which Obama believes does not have an adverse reflection on job growth. He also disagreed with the premise that Republicans would have agreed to debt ceiling hike in November, in exchange for the preservation of the Bush tax rates. Finally, he expressed worry over the debt ceiling. The Treasury will run out of money if the debt ceiling is not raised, resulting in increased interest rates and a retraction of global markets, among other things. He asserted that Congress has a responsibility to ensure Americans pay bills.
Anna Rutherford is an intern at THE WEEKLY STANDARD.