Feb. 10, 2009— -- On the same day his Treasury secretary detailed a $2 trillion plan to stabilize the U.S. banking systems and the Senate narrowly passed an $838 billion economic stimulus bill, President Barack Obama said, "we are in a perfect storm of financial problems."
The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 382 points following today's news, and Obama said it's important to recognize that "there is no easy out" when it comes to the current economic crisis.
"Wall Street, I think, is hoping for an easy out on this thing, and there is no easy out," Obama told "Nightline" co-anchor Terry Moran in an exclusive interview in Fort Meyers, Fla. "I think that you have two choices in this situation: you can prolong the agony and shareholders will be happy until they're not happy, and that could be a year from now or two years from now or in the case of Japan, eight years later. Or you can just go ahead and acknowledge that yeah, there's, there's a lot of work that has to be done to put these banks back on a firmer footing."
Earlier today, the president held a town hall meeting in Fort Meyers, an area hit hard by foreclosures and unemployment.
After a rough week of criticism over his handling of several cabinet nominations and the stimulus package, Obama was clearly happy to be back on the road and energized by the almost 2,000 person crowd. During the town hall meeting he made several jokes, and took questions in "boy, girl, boy, girl" order.
Obama said he tries to be realistic but not alarmist when addressing the American people about the economy.
I'm constantly trying to thread the needle between sounding alarmist, but also letting the American people know the circumstances that we're in," he said. "And the fact of the matter is, is that we are in not just an ordinary recession, we are in a perfect storm of financial problems and now, a decline in worldwide demand that is resulting in huge numbers of jobs being shed, the lowest consumer confidence we've seen, credit locked up."
Obama stressed the value of the country's assets, work force, universities, companies and infrastructure, but said that while he believes the economy will turn around, "we're not going to get there by pretending that we don't have some very big problems, and I think the American people understand that."
"We've got to keep perspective. We're not going through the Great Depression."