Cheerleader in Chief Obama Projects Confidence

White House tries to boost economic morale with Wall Street on winning streak.

March 13, 2009, 4:07 PM

March 13, 2009— -- With Wall Street on a four-day winning streak, the White House is changing its attitude and projecting an air of confidence on the economy.

The president and his economic team have upped the ante in their language when discussing the economy, sensing that in addition to the trillions of dollars being spent on economic recovery, the nation needs an investment of optimism.

For the first time since mid-April of last year, the Dow Jones industrial average landed in positive territory for four consecutive days. President Obama did not declare that the economy is "fundamentally sound," as he once criticized his opponent Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., for saying during the presidential campaign, but he did do some economic cheerleading.

"If we are keeping focused on all the fundamentally sound aspects of our economy -- all the outstanding companies, workers, all the innovation and dynamism in this country -- then we're going to get through this. And I'm very confident about that," Obama said after meeting with former Federal Reserve Board chairman Paul Volcker today.

Members of the administration fanned out, putting on economic smiley faces and putting the best face on the bad news. Vice President Joe Biden touted Amtrak and announced that it will receive $1.3 billion in stimulus to update train stations and passenger rails.

"It will put people to work immediately. And it's an investment of dollars that will not only create jobs now, but yield benefits for our economy for years to come," said Biden, who boasts he has taken more than 700 round trips on Amtrak. "It will begin to build the platform for the economy of the 21st century."

Larry Summers, Obama's top economic adviser, said that it's too early to accurately gauge the impact of the stimulus act, but he suggested economic indicators might be looking up.

"It is modestly encouraging that since it began to take shape, consumer spending in the United States, which was collapsing during the holiday season, appears, according to a number of indicators, to have stabilized," Summers said at the Brookings Institution in Washington.

Obama Team Finds 'Glimmers of Hope' in Economy

Retail sales, which dropped at the end of 2008, increased in January by 1.8 percent. In February, sales only dropped by 0.1 percent -- a number far less negative than expected, analysts say.

In addition, foreclosure filings were down in February in 20 states.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs has underlined such parts of the economy that are improving as "glimmers of hope" amid far worse economic indicators, such as skyrocketing unemployment and a shrinking gross domestic product.

Still, the president has expressed a tempered optimism.

"I don't think things are ever as good as we say, and they're never as bad as they say," Obama said during a meeting with business leaders and chief executives Thursday. "And things two years ago were not as good as we thought, because there were a lot of underlying weaknesses in the economy. And they're not as bad as we think they are now."

The White House is pushing long-term investments in energy, education and health care, arguing that the economy has been on a bubble-and-bust cycle and sustained on greed.

"Greed begets greed and the bubble grows," Summers said today. "Eventually, however, the process stops and reverses. Greed gives way to fear. And this fear -- this fear begets fear."

Encouraging Americans not to fear and remain optimistic, Summers said, "There is one enduring lesson in the history of financial crises: They all end."

With the endpoint of the financial crisis unknown, Gibbs cautioned that the administration is not yet declaring success.

"It's important to stress that we've unfurled no 'mission accomplished' banners," he said. "And I think any suggestion of that would be quite premature."

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