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Obama touts economic message, fights for Democrats

world Updated: Sep 10, 2010 21:05 IST
US President

President Barack Obama escalated his offensive against Republicans on Friday as he pushed new ideas to stimulate the sluggish US economy and try to counter Democrats' grim election prospects in November.

With opinion polls showing more Americans questioning his economic leadership, the president used a rare news conference at the White House to hammer home a message that painted Republicans as obstructionist and the party for the rich.

Obama said Republican policies under his predecessor George W Bush had led to "a financial crisis and a terrible recession that we're still digging out of today."

"Even though the economy is growing again ... the hole the recession left was huge. Progress has been painfully slow," he said.

Obama also said Republicans were holding middle-class tax relief hostage to deliver tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires.

The event capped a week in which Obama rolled out modest tax cuts and spending proposals aimed at jump-starting job growth and reiterated that the United States could not afford to extend Bush-era tax cuts for the rich.

Stubbornly high unemployment threatens to cost Democrats control of the House of Representatives, and possibly the Senate, in congressional elections on Nov 2.

Obama formally announced long-time economic adviser Austan Goolsbee as the new head of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, a key source of economic policy advice for the president.

Already a familiar face on financial news television, Goolsbee is an effective communicator and will likely be a persuasive advocate for Obama's approach to the economy as voters weigh the choice between Democrats and Republicans in November.

With the elections less than two months away, Obama has gone into campaign mode to rally dispirited Democrats and shift the impression that the poor performance of the US economy makes their drubbing on Nov 2 unavoidable.

But economists cast doubt this week that his new economic proposals would be enough to dent the 9.6 unemployment rate or revive a recovery that appears to be running out of steam amid fears of a double-dip recession.