President Obama tweets during a Twitter town hall meeting Wednesday at the White House as Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey watches; Photo by Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images
In a live “Twitter town hall” meeting Wednesday, President Obama fielded tweeted questions about jobs, taxes and the debt-limit debate, sparred with the House Speaker John Boehner and asked American tweeters for their ideas to reduce the deficit.
The president kicked off the event, hosted by Twitter Co-founder Jack Dorsey, by tweeting a solicitation for Twitter users to pitch him their ideas to lower the U.S. deficit:
in order to reduce the deficit,what costs would you cut and what investments would you keep – bo
In a little over an hour, President Obama responded to 17 questions tweeted with the #AskObama hashtag, including queries about the deficit, debt ceiling, jobs, the housing crisis and taxes dominated the conversation, which included a tweet from House Speaker John Boehner:
After embarking on a record spending binge that’s left us deeper in debt, where are the jobs? #AskObama
Watch the president’s response to Boehner’s question:
“John needs to work on his typing skills,” the president joked, after seeing a tweet with extra characters from Boehner, who asked about job growth.
“What he’s right about is that we have not seen fast enough job growth relative to the need. We lost, as I said, 4 million jobs before I took office, before I was sworn in…over the last 15 months we’ve actually seen 2 million jobs created in the private sector and so we’re each month seeing growth in jobs,” he said, adding that when there was an eight million job deficit, people out of work were eager to see job growth at a faster pace.
Here are some more highlights of the president’s responses to the tweeted questions:
“We are going through a spirited debate here in Washington, but it’s important to get the whole country involved,” he said, soliciting responses from the public on what should be cut and preserved.
When asked what he would do differently to handle the recession, the president said, “one would have been to explain to the American people that it was going to take a while for us to get out of this. Even I didn’t realize the magnitude because most economists didn’t realize the magnitude of the recession…in the area of housing I think that the continuing decline in the housing is something that hasn’t bottomed out as quickly as we expected.”
Jobs and Manufacturing
#AskObama Tech & knowledge industries are thriving, yet jobs discussion always centers on manufacturing. Why not be realistic about jobs?
“We have to be successful at the cutting-edge industries of the future — like Twitter — but we’ve always been a country that makes stuff,” Mr. Obama said. The president used the opportunity to push innovation, a consistent theme of his economic speeches. “You can combine high-tech with manufacturing, and then you get the best of both worlds,” he said.
Cost of Higher Education
Higher ed. is necessary for a stronger economy, but for some middle class Americans it’s becoming too expensive. What can be done? #askobama
The president touted efforts by his administration to streamline federal loans to students in need, but acknowledged that the rising costs of college education have hampered even students who can gain loans. “If the costs keep going up we’ll never have enough money,” he said, urging university administrators to look into reigning costs.
Executive Order on the Debt Ceiling?
#AskObama Mr. President, will you issue an executive order to raise the debt ceiling pursuant to section 4 of the 14th amendment?
Asked about whether he would issue an executive order on the debt ceiling, the president said “historically the United States, whenever it has a deficit, it finances that deficit through the sale of treasuries. This is a very common practice over our lifetimes, typically the government is always running a modest deficit. Congress is supposed to vote on the amount of debt that Treasury can essentially issue.” But now, the crisis has forced a once mundane task into the spotlight.
“If we do not (vote to raise debt ceiling), the Treasury will run out of money. It will not be able to pay the bills,” potentially causing world markets to react negatively.
This “could create whole new spiral into second recession or worse. So this is something we shouldn’t be toying with,” he said.
Jobs and Immigrant Entrepreneurs
Immigrant entrepreneurs can build companies and create jobs for US workers. Will you support a startup visa program? #askobama
The president used a question on immigrant entrepreneurs to renew calls for comprehensive immigration reform. “What I want to do is make sure that talented people who come to this country to study, to get degrees and are willing and interested in starting businesses, can do so” he said, later adding that “our laws make it too hard for talented people to contribute and be part of our society.”
Mr. President, In several states we have seen people lose their collective bargaining rights. Do you have a plan to rectify this? #AskObama
“Collective bargaining is the reason why the vast majority of Americans enjoy a minimum wage, enjoy weekends, enjoy overtime — so many things that we take for granted are because workers came together to bargain with their employers,” President Obama said in response to a question on the state of collective bargaining rights in the country, especially in light of the high-profile controversy in Wisconsin.
“All of us are going to have to make some adjustment but the principle of collective bargaining — making sure people can exercise their rights to join together with other workers…that’s something that has to be protected,” he said.
We’ll have much more about the president’s Twitter town hall on Wednesday’s NewsHour broadcast. The Morning Line also has more on the background of the event:
Thirty followers of @whitehouse with significant and regionally diverse followings of their own have been invited to live tweet the event from the East Room.
The questions will be submitted over the Internet. “Ultimately the decisions of what is asked and moderation of the event falls to Twitter. They are applying filters and working with partners to look for popular themes and hot topics,” Phillips told reporters.
One advantage for the president: He won’t be keeping his answers to 140 characters or less.
As any Twitter user knows, it can often be exceedingly frustrating to narrow your thoughts to just 140 characters. President Obama will avoid that frustration by giving his usual lengthy answers to questions and having his staff summarize those answers in the permissible amount before posting them to the @whitehouse Twitter feed.
The challenge for the president is all about looking comfortable with the process and displaying sufficient knowledge about the medium.
Republican presidential contenders should watch closely for what works and what doesn’t work. They will, no doubt, be sure to host Twitter events of their own over the course of the next eight months.