President Barack Obama said on Monday that Europe's debt crisis was scaring the world and eurozone leaders were not acting fast enough, underscoring concerns about the fallout for the U.S. economy and his own re-election chances.
Obama's pointed remarks, delivered at a townhall-style meeting in California that focused mostly on his $447 billion U.S. jobs plan, added to Washington's pressure on Europe to move more forcefully to contain its fiscal troubles.
There is growing concern within Obama's administration that a deepening of Europe's sovereign debt crisis could pitch the already-stagnant U.S. economy back into recession at a time when he faces a daunting 2012 re-election bid.
Obama said the U.S. recovery suffered setbacks this year due to problems around the world, including the Arab Spring uprisings that drove up energy prices and worries about the financial health of European countries.
They have not fully healed from the crisis back in 2007 and never fully dealt with all the challenges that their banking system faced. It is now being compounded with what is happening in Greece, Obama told an audience of about 400 in Mountain View in California's Silicon Valley.
So they are going through a financial crisis that is scaring the world and they are trying to take responsible actions but those actions haven't been quite as quick as they need to be, Obama said.
His latest criticism of the European response followed an IMF meeting in Washington where the United States and China piled pressure on Europe to get to grips with its debt crisis.
But Obama faces fiscal woes of his own. Moody's Investors Service said his deficit reduction plan would be positive for America's credit ratings but chances of its implementation are extremely low.
TOUTS JOB PLAN
Obama, on the West Coast to raise funds for his campaign and tout his jobs-creation proposals, has seen his approval ratings hit by worries over persistently high unemployment above 9 percent.
The Democratic president, who pushed through an $800 billion economic stimulus plan in 2009, has set out a new plan of new spending and tax breaks aimed at creating jobs.
Republicans, who have accused him of wasteful spending in the past, have given his package a cool reception because it would be paid for with tax increases on high income earners, but say they are willing to consider some of his ideas.
At his appearance in Silicon Valley, Obama chided Republicans on Monday for what he depicted as an effort to shield the wealthy from taxes at the expense of middle class Americans.
But he was not as strident in his criticism of his political foes as he was on a Sunday night California fundraiser where he mocked Texas Governor Rick Perry, a top contender to win the Republican presidential nomination, for questioning the human causes behind global climate change.
Obama has deliberately hardened his attack against Republicans in recent weeks, sharpening differences between the two parties before next year's election in a bid to energize his core supporters, who he needs to win in 2012.
At Monday's event, Obama faced mostly gentle questioning from the audience. One middle-aged man, who said he was unemployed by choice after having profited well from an Internet start-up, asked the president to raise his taxes to support programs like education.
The call echoed billionaire investor Warren Buffet, who urged the rich to pay more in tax, prompting Obama to propose a Buffett Rule that people earning $1 million a year pay at least the same tax rate as less wealthy Americans.
Republicans have insisted that raising taxes on higher-income Americans would hurt job creation.
The income of folks at the top has gone up exponentially over the last couple of decades while the incomes of the middle class have flatlined over the last 15 years, Obama said.
The townhall meeting at the Computer History Museum, hosted by professional networking site LinkedIn Corp in the heart of Silicon Valley, is the latest in a string of Obama events to press Congress to pass his $447 billion jobs bill.