By JIM KUHNHENN
WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ On the fifth anniversary of the Lehman Brothers collapse, President Barack Obama says the Republican focus on budget tightening could widen income disparities in the nation even as the economy climbs out of a debilitating recession.
Trying to lay claim to an economic turnaround, Obama acknowledged that despite progress, middle- and low-income Americans have not benefited as much as the top 1 percent in the country.
"We came in, stabilized the situation," he told ABC's "This Week" in an interview broadcast Sunday. He cited 42 months in a row of growth, 7Â½ million jobs created and a revitalized auto industry.
"The banking system works. It is giving loans to companies who can get credit. And so we have seen, I think undoubtedly, progress across the board," he said. Obama will kick off a series of economy-related events with a Rose Garden speech Monday. His National Economic Council released a report Sunday detailing the economic advances.
For Obama, the Lehman anniversary is an opportunity, after weeks devoted to the Syrian crisis, 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. Lehman's was the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history, and its demise marked the beginning of the global financial crisis and was a major catalyst of the financial meltdown.
Obama emphasized that when it comes to a crucial deadline to raise the nation's borrowing limit next month, he would not negotiate with Republicans. They want to use the debt ceiling as leverage to cut spending further and to delay Obama's signature health care law.
Sunday's National Economic Council report is a catalog of Obama administration and Federal Reserve actions that the council's director, Obama economic adviser Gene Sperling, said "have performed better than virtually anyone at the time predicted." They range from the unpopular Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, that shored up the financial industry and bailed out auto giants General Motors and Chrysler, to an $800 billion stimulus bill to sweeping new bank regulations.