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CBS Gives Obama Over 26 Minutes to Lecture on the Economy

CBS gave President Obama over 26 and a half minutes to answer 12 questions related to the economy during a town hall aired on Thursday's Early Show. Obama got six uninterrupted minutes to answer one question about Medicare during the hour-long event. Host Erica Hill wondered how the Democrat could "change the mind-set from things are tough to things are turning around" with the economy.

Hill led the town hall with her concerned economic "mind-set" question, noting beforehand that "it seems that we have been hearing, whether it's on TV, at the office, around the kitchen table, things are tough," but continuing that "there's positive economic data coming through. Yet, sometimes it can feel like for every two steps forward, it's one step back. There's definitely a psychological component to this recovery."

Once the President gave his initial answer, co-host Harry Smith followed up by pointing out how apparently, "people aren't feeling it, though.....So, you can read in the Wall Street Journal and the stock market has recovered really well, but at the same time, there are a lot of people who've stopped looking for jobs. Jobs just aren't there."

Later in the hour, CBS correspondent Rebecca Jarvis relayed a viewer's question from Internet to Mr. Obama: "So many of the good paying jobs have been outsourced, leaving nothing but low wage jobs. How can employers feel good enough to hire again or increase wages with so much uncertainty about the economy?" After he answered, Jarvis then asked a related question of her own from the left:

JARVIS: At the same time, though, that we've seen some job growth, there are still 13.7 million people in this country unemployed. Wages have stagnated for the last decade, and you mentioned stocks are up ten percent away from their all time highs. Companies are making record profits. They have $2 trillion of cash to spend. If this isn't the right circumstance for raising wages and really going out and employing new people, what will be?

Smith did interject with a right-leaning point after the Democrat answered an audience's question about her small business: "But as a small business person, do you feel over-regulated, because that's the other theme that we've heard over the last two years?" Earlier in the hour, Hill also pointed out the President's poor ratings on the economy according to the latest CBS News/New York Times poll: "He received his lowest rating yet on his handling of the economy: 34 percent."

The President's six-minute monologue came near the end of the town hall after an audience member asked, "You've proposed budget changes to Medicare. I'd like to know how they still would be able to keep the 45-year promise that's been made to the American public."

CBS announced their plans for this town hall event last Friday, which came just over a month after President Obama officially announced the beginning of his reelection campaign.

The transcript of the questions asked during Thursday's town hall event on CBS during the 8 am Eastern hour of The Early Show, along with some of President Obama's answers for context:

HILL: You know, for the past four years, Mr. President, it seems that we have been hearing, whether it's on TV, at the office, around the kitchen table, things are tough, and there is some improvement. There's positive economic data coming through. Yet, sometimes it can feel like for every two steps forward, it's one step back. There's definitely a psychological component to this recovery. How, then, do we change the mind-set from things are tough, to things are turning around?

SMITH: People aren't feeling it, though. That's the- just to sort of reemphasize the question. So, you can read in the Wall Street Journal and the stock market is- has recovered really well, but at the same time, there is- there are a lot of people who've stopped looking for jobs. Jobs just aren't there.

OBAMA: Well, part of what's happened is that the recovery's uneven. So, certain sectors of the country are doing better than others. Manufacturing is actually doing really well, in part, because the auto industry is getting back on its feet, and that has to do with decisions that we made early in my administration to make sure that we still had those Big Three auto companies here in America, making U.S. cars and innovating so that we could compete internationally. But part of the problem is not just folks who don't have work. It's also folks who have work seeing their incomes flat-line, and that is a decade-long trend. That's part of the reason I ran for President was because too many folks were losing ground. Between 2000 and 2009, during that decade, the average income for American families actually went down. Even though, as you said, the stock market was booming, corporate profits were way up, CEO pay was-

SMITH: Up 27 percent in the last year.

OBAMA: That's exactly right. So part of what's happened also is some structural changes in the economy, where it used to be that there was broad-based shared prosperity, now if companies are doing really well, they're not necessarily hiring back workers. They're just figuring out how to do more with fewer workers. That may increase profits, but it doesn't help folks who are looking for a job, and oftentimes, that outlook puts a lot of pressure on the people who are already on the job. So, some of the changes that are taking place in the economy are ones that took a decade or two to get to, and it's gonna take us several years for us to get back to where we need to be.

But the important thing, though, Harry is- and I'm sure, as we get questions today, I want to emphasize- is we're moving in the right direction. The fact that the economy is growing is a good thing. The fact that companies are making a profit is a good thing. The fact that we're becoming more competitive is a good thing. But we've gotta stay with it, and that means improving our education system, improving our infrastructure, making sure that we've got an energy policy that actually makes sense so that, you know, our economy is not subject to the whims of what happens over in the Middle East.

SMITH: And speaking of energy policy, we want to get to our first questioner. Peter Baca is here. Peter, let's- fire away.

PETER BACA, GOVERNMENT RELATIONS EMPLOYEE: Good day, Mr. President. The American people have seen gas prices double and in some areas triple within the last year or so. This impacts every single American today, including the likes of retailers, grocers, and such. What changes can the American people expect to see, and what actions, if any, are you willing to take to relieve this growing inflation? In other words, what measures can we anticipate? (....)

KARIN GALLO, LAID OFF FEDERAL EMPLOYEE: Hi, Mr. President. About three years ago, just under three years ago, I took a job with the federal government, thinking it was a secure job. Recently, I've been told I'm being laid off as of June 4th, and it is not an opportune time for me. I am seven months pregnant, in a high-risk pregnancy, my first pregnancy. My husband and I are in the middle of building a house. We're not sure if we're going to be completely approved. I'm not exactly in a position to waltz right in and do great on interviews, based on my timing with the birth. And so, I'm stressed. I'm worried. I'm scared about what my future holds. I definitely need a job, and I just wonder, what would you do, if you were me? (audience laughs)

OBAMA: Well, Karin, first of all, I think you'll do great on interviews, just based on the way you asked the question. And congratulations....on the new one coming....Where were you working?

GALLO: The National Zoo, and I would be non-essential employee number seven. (audience laughs)

OBAMA: Well, look, I- let me just first of all say that workers like you for the federal, state, and local governments are so important for our vital services, and in- and it frustrates me sometimes when people talk about government jobs as if, somehow, those are worth less than private sector jobs. I think there's nothing more important than working on behalf of the American people and-

GALLO: Well, I thought that I'd be more important and secure.

OBAMA: I agree with you.

(....)

SMITH: But in 20 seconds, assuming the economy improved dramatically, say in the next year or two-

OBAMA: Right.

SMITH: Would Karin get her job back?

OBAMA: Well, I would hope so. I mean-

SMITH: But in reality?

OBAMA: Because part of my argument is that we're having to make some decisions about cuts to federal programs now, but also states and local governments are making these decisions, on programs that often times are doing a lot of good. I mean, these are good things. You know? So, everybody has a tendency to think that somehow government is all waste, and if we just sort of got rid of all the waste, well, that somehow we would solve our debt and our deficit.

In fact, most of the government services that people get are ones they really like: Social Security, veterans affairs, our military, our- the help we give in terms of law enforcement, preventing terrorist attacks, making sure our food is safe, making sure that our national parks are functioning. I mean, those are all things that all of us appreciate and care about. Well, that's what our government does. And so, these are not abstract questions, and I think Karin makes it really clear that there are real consequences when we make these decisions.

(....)

REBECCA JARVIS: And not surprisingly, a number of the questions in this room today have focused on jobs. The same is true of the online community. Let me read you one from a viewer who comes from an e-mail. Her name is Tina Peak. She's in Charlotte, North Carolina, and she asks, 'So many of the good paying jobs have been outsourced, leaving nothing but low wage jobs. How can employers feel good enough to hire again or increase wages with so much uncertainty about the economy?'

(....)

JARVIS: At the same time, though, that we've seen some job growth, there are still 13.7 million people in this country unemployed. Wages have stagnated for the last decade, and you mentioned stocks are up ten percent away from their all time highs. Companies are making record profits. They have $2 trillion of cash to spend. If this isn't the right circumstance for raising wages and really going out and employing new people, what will be?

(....)

HILL: We want- we do want to switch gears a little bit here now. When we talk about the economy, so much is focused on the housing market, which, in many ways, started this road that we're on. I know Nancy is joining us here in the audience. She has a housing-specific question for us this morning.

NANCY LOGAN, EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT: Hi Mister President. I'm a college-educated single working mom in Fairfax County with an 11-year-old daughter. I've been divorced for four years and receive little to no child support. After my divorce, I worked with my mortgage company and was given a loan modification, so I could afford to pay my mortgage on one income. My loan modification ends in January 2012, and although my credit is good, I can't refinance the house because I owe more than it's worth. My new mortgage payment may increase up to $1,000 more a month. And my question to you, Mr. President, is do you have any plans to help improve the housing market so hardworking Americans like myself don't lose their homes?

SMITH: One in four mortgages in the United States underwater right now.

(....)

SMITH: But a lot of what you first introduced hadn't worked- hasn't worked very well.

(....)

SMITH: Let's get another question right here. Anna Urman. Anna, where are you? There you go.

ANNA URMAN, SMALL BUSINESS OWNER: Hi, Mr. President. As you are well aware, small businesses make up about 40 percent of the GDP, and as a sector employee- the majority of public sector- private sector employees- what can your administration do to ensure that any new laws and regulations not only not hurt small businesses, but, in fact, help them grow and thrive?

(....)

SMITH: But as a small business person, do you feel over-regulated, because that's the other theme that we've heard over the last two years?

URMAN: Yeah, part of that is that. I'm taxed- because, as a small business owner, my business's income is my income. So I feel like I'm being taxed higher than somebody, you know, who earns a regular job with the same amount of income-

OBAMA: What kind of business do you have?

URMAN: I'm a researcher. I help companies figure out how to work with federal government.

(....)

JARVIS: Our next question is maybe somebody who can help you with that. He's a self-employed accountant.

OBAMA: Well there you go.

JARVIS: So if you need a little help. Bernard Miller has a question now for us.

BERNARD MILLER, ACCOUNTANT: How you doing, Mister President?

OBAMA: I'm good.

MILLER: First, I'd like to thank you for the great job you did last weekend keeping America safe. (audience applauds) And my question to you is, you've proposed budget changes to Medicare. I'd like to know how they still would be able to keep the 45-year promise that's been made to the American public?

- Matthew Balan is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here.