President Barack Obama spent more than an hour Thursday fielding questions submitted online and from attendees of a town hall meeting-style forum at the White House.
Obama said the event, which was streamed live over the Internet, was part of his ongoing efforts to reach more Americans to better explain his aims and priorities.
Here in Washington, politics all too often is treated like a game. There's a lot of point scoring, a lot of talk about who's up and who's down, Obama said. But this isn't about me. It's about you. . And for the American people, what's going on is not a game.
He added, That's why I've been working to deliver the changes you sent me here to make; to ensure that we're not only making it through this crisis, but come out on the other side stronger and more prosperous as a nation over the long term.
Obama sought to assure his audience, both online and in person, that the steps he's taken and will continue to take will help lift the country out of its deep recession by enacting tax cuts for most Americans and working to unfreeze the credit markets.
We, as a nation, have already begun the critical work that will lead to our economic recovery, he said. It's a recovery that will be measured by whether jobs are being created and families have more money to pay their bills at the end of each month. . It's a recovery that will be measured by whether families and entrepreneurs can get the loans they need.
He added, And in the end, it's a recovery that will be measured by whether it lasts, whether it endures; by whether we build our economy on a solid foundation instead of a overheated housing market or maxed-out credit cards or the sleight of hand on Wall Street; whether we build an economy in which prosperity is broadly shared.
To that end, Obama said, the budget he put forward to Congress is critical to building the nation's lasting prosperity by investing in education, reforming the health care system and ending the country's dependence on foreign oil.
This is what Americans' success demands and this is what our budget will do, he said. And I'm under no illusions that a better day will come about quickly or easily. It's going to be hard.
However, Obama added, I'm a big believer in the idea of persistence -- the idea that when the American people put their mind to something and keep at it, without giving up, without turning back, no obstacle can stand in our way, and no dream is beyond our reach.
The online questioners sought to determine Obama's views on a variety of issues, ranging from education and national service to relief for struggling homeowners and outsourcing.
On education, Obama said he was looking to reform the education system in a variety of ways, from looking at altering the school year to improving teacher quality.
The key thing to understand about our education system is we need more resources and we need reform, he said. If we just put more money into a system that's designed for the 19th century and we're in the 21st, we're not going to get the educational outcomes we need. On the other hand, if we talk a lot about reform but we're not willing to put more resources in, that's not going to work.
Answering a question on the outsourcing of U.S. jobs to foreign countries, Obama said that American workers needed to understand that some types of jobs simply won't be returning and be ready to train and strive for the next generation of jobs that will power the economy.
A lot of the outsourcing that was referred to in the question really has to do with the fact that our economy -- if it's dependent on low-wage, low-skill labor, it's very hard to hang on to those jobs, he said. There's always a country out there that pays lower wages than the U.S. And so we've got to go after the high-skill, high-wage jobs of the future.
He added, That's why it's so important to train our folks more effectively and that's why it's so important for us to find new industries -- building solar panels or wind turbines or the new biofuel -- that involve these higher-value, higher-skill, higher-paying jobs.
Obama also said that while he was in favor of universal health care, he didn't favor a single-payer approach modeled on Canada or the U.K.
We have what's called a legacy, a set of institutions that aren't that easily transformed, he said. What evolved in America was an employer-based system. It may not be the best system if we were designing it from scratch. But that's what everybody is accustomed to. . It works for a lot of Americans.
He added, So I don't think the best way to fix our health care system is to suddenly completely scrap what everybody is accustomed to and the vast majority of people already have. Rather, what I think we should do is to build on the system that we have and fill some of these gaps.
Obama also addressed an issue that garnered 3.5 million votes in the White House's effort to let citizens choose the questions: legalizing marijuana.
There was one question that was voted on that ranked fairly high and that was whether legalizing marijuana would improve the economy and job creation, Obama said. I don't know what this says about the online audience but . we want to make sure that it was answered. The answer is, no, I don't think that is a good strategy to grow our economy.
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