By Jim Kuhnhenn
WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama is marking the fifth anniversary of the Lehman Brothers collapse by trying to lay claim to an economic turnaround and warning Republicans against moves that he contends would risk a backslide.
His message to the GOP: don't oppose raising the nation's debt limit, don't threaten to close down the government in a budget fight, and don't push to delay the health care law or starve it of federal money.
The economic emphasis, after weeks devoted to the Syrian crisis, begins coming into focus in a series of events kicked off by a Rose Garden speech Monday. It's a determined effort to confront public skepticism about his stewardship of the economy and to put down his marker for budget clashes with Congress in the weeks ahead.The White House argues that a better capitalized and better regulated financial sector is extending more credit, fueling an economy now able to withstand headwinds, like spending cuts and tax increases. "You can draw this straight line from the health of the financial system to the ways the financial system impacts the economy," said Jason Furman, the chairman of Obama's Council of Economic Advisers. Obama can point to a growing economy, rising housing prices, 35 consecutive months of hiring, a rebounding stock market and other signs of recovery. Five years after the federal government stepped in and infused banks with $245 billion in taxpayer money to avert a financial meltdown, the government has been paid back nearly in full. Sunday is the fifth anniversary of Lehman's bankruptcy, which was the largest in U.S. history. The firm's demise marked the beginning of the global financial crisis and was a major catalyst of the financial meltdown. "We've put more people back to work, but we've also cleared away the rubble of crisis and laid the foundation for stronger and more durable economic growth," Obama said during his recent trip to Russia. "And as Congress takes up important decisions in the coming months, I'm going to keep making the case for the smart investments and fiscal responsibility that keep our economy growing, creates jobs and keeps the U.S. competitive. That includes making sure we don't risk a U.S. default over paying bills we've already racked up."