Transcript: Diane Sawyer Interviews Obama

the economic contraction and putting people back to work. Now, we have stopped the economic contraction. The economy is growing again, and we did create or save several million of jobs. That's not my opinion. That's the opinion of conservative economists as well as liberal economists, was that the Recovery Act, which is a combination of tax cuts, infrastructure improvements, helping states stabilize their budgets -- all those things helped to lessen the fall.

But we've still lost 7 million jobs. So, I understand why the American people, their attitude is not "It could have been worse." Their attitude is, "How do we make sure we keep on making it better?". And that's what we'll be talking about on Wednesday.

SAWYER: New proposal? Something surprising?

15:08

OBAMA: Well, you know, I'll let you guys judge whether it's surprising or not. There's going to be consistency though in the sense that my first job coming into office was to rescue the economy from great peril. My second job was to make sure that we create a new foundation for economic growth.

Here's part of what happened. Over the last decade, even when people were saying that the economy was doing fine, it was one of the first times in history where the middle class actually saw its incomes decline. We actually saw very little job growth during that period. And on a whole host of measures from health care cost, college affordability, people were having a harder and harder time getting by. So what I've said is we can't go back to the same pattern where you've got bubbles, whether it's in housing or the dot.com boom that are fueling a lot of speculation, making a lot of people a lot of money, but leaving a lot of people in the middle and low-income people behind.

What we have to have is a foundation that's built on a good education system, a sound energy policy, a health care system that works for everybody, financial regulations that ensure we don't have this crisis again, and those foundations for long-term economic growth are going to be my focus this year. They're going to be my focus next year. They're going to be my focus the year after that because if we don't get that stuff right, then it's going to be very difficult for us to answer the anxieties that people feel over the long-term.

SAWYER: A couple of quick news questions if I can. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke going to be confirmed. Do you guarantee the markets that he's going to the Fed chairman?

OBAMA: He has my strongest support. I think he's done a good job. What we've seen is not only Democratic leaders, but also Republican leaders say that he should be confirmed and I'm confident that he will be confirmed.

SAWYER: Even though Barbara Boxer, John McCain have come out and said look -- John McCain said he's the guy who steered into the iceberg. Barbara Boxer said we need a representative of Main Street on the Fed.

OBAMA: What we need is somebody at the Federal Reserve who can make sure that the progress that we've made in stabilizing the economy continues. And I think Bernanke is the best person for that job.

Watch Diane Sawyer's interview with President Obama on "World News" at 6:30 p.m. ET tonight, on "Nightline" at 11:35 p.m., and on "Good Morning America" at 7 a.m. Tuesday.

SAWYER: Secretary Geithner and Economic Chairman Summers, have you asked them to stay until the end of 2010? Have they said yes?

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