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US economy facing emergency: Obama -

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The US president Barack Obama is openly describing the US economic crisis as an "emergency", and
public anger and frustration over the economy is growing. Street protests that began around Wall
Street in New York have now spread to some 50 other US cities.

TONY EASTLEY: Well jobs and future employment prospects are a huge problem in the US and a hurdle
to re-election for Barack Obama. The US president is openly calling his nation's economy an
"emergency".

He says the American economy is now in worse shape than it was at the start of the year and he's
acknowledged the frustration driving the street protests being held around Wall Street in New York
and other US cities.

North America correspondent Jane Cowan reports.

(Sound of protesters)

JANE COWAN: Occupy Wall Street became Occupy DC - a festival atmosphere filling Freedom Plaza in
the US capital, protesters playing banjos, blowing bubbles, beating drums and singing.

(Sound of protesters singing)

The agenda was as broad as it's been in New York, protesters from groups as diverse as Veterans for
Peace...

PROTESTERS CHANTING: Peace now not the war. Peace now not the war.

JANE COWAN: To a group calling itself the Raging Grannies for peace and economic equality.

RAGING GRANNIES PROTESTER: This is a message for president Obama as well as all the people in this
country. He needs to know what we think and I'm angry.

JANE COWAN: In his first press conference in more than two months, Barack Obama acknowledged the
American people were feeling cynical.

BARACK OBAMA: The American people are very frustrated; they've been frustrated for a long time.
They don't get a sense that folks in this town are looking out for their interests.

JANE COWAN: He was asked specifically about the Occupy Wall Street protests.

BARACK OBAMA: Obviously I've heard of it, I've seen it on television, that the protesters are
giving voice to a more broad based frustration about how our financial system works.

JANE COWAN: The president offered perhaps his starkest assessment yet of the state of the US
economy.

BARACK OBAMA: There is no doubt that the economy is weaker now than it was at the beginning of the
year. Right now we've got an emergency and the American people are living that emergency out every
single day

JANE COWAN: Barack Obama singled out the threat now posed now by Europe's financial woes.

BARACK OBAMA: The biggest headwind the American economy is facing right now is uncertainty about
Europe because it's affecting global markets.

JANE COWAN: And he urged Republicans to pass his jobs bill, which he says could put as many as 1.9
million unemployed Americans back to work.

BARACK OBAMA: We have a democracy. All I can do is make the best arguments and mobilise the
American people so that they are responsive. We are just going to keep on making the case.

JANE COWAN: But reaction to the president's stance has been mixed, some calling it his best
performance in a long time.

Others though, like the former US labor secretary under Bill Clinton, Robert Reich, were more
critical.

ROBERT REICH: Well he said all the right things. The problem and the frustration I have his style
was so subdued. There was not very much indignation. I mean given that we have so many people
unemployed, given that this is the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, I would have
wanted him to be a little bit more forceful in terms of the scale of the problem.

JANE COWAN: A problem that shows every sign of persisting - the president's own advisers predicting
unemployment won't drop below 8 per cent before the election.

This is Jane Cowan in Washington for AM.