Obama to deliver status-check speech on economy

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President Barack Obama says getting Americans back to work is his top priority, a message the White House has tried to underscore with weekly economy-focused stops outside Washington.

His latest trip is Wednesday, when he is making a quick visit to Pittsburgh to deliver an update on the nation’s economy in a week otherwise dominated by the Gulf oil spill and the deadly Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla.

The White House said Obama’s remarks at Carnegie Mellon University would highlight the progress that has been made in building the “new foundation” for growth and prosperity that the president called for a year ago.

That new foundation, Obama said in April 2009, would be built on five pillars: new rules for Wall Street; investments in education, renewable energy and health care; and reductions in federal spending to bring down budget deficits.

In some areas, the president can claim victory. His administration’s $862 billion stimulus plan included significant investments in education and incentives for growth in renewable energy industries. The $1 trillion health care bill he signed into law in March was the largest overhaul of the U.S. health care system in decades.

But not every goal has been met. A sweeping overhaul of Wall Street regulations is still tied up in Congress, with lawmakers hoping to deliver final legislation to the president by July 4.

And the national debt has ticked up to $13 trillion on Obama’s watch. The president contends the recession made it necessary to add to the debt in the short term. He’s appointed a bipartisan commission to make recommendations to Congress on ways the government can balance the budget by 2015.

Overall, there have been signs of progress since the president called for a new economic foundation – the economy is growing and adding jobs. But as the president himself frequently acknowledges, the recovery hasn’t reached everyone.

The April unemployment report showed that 15.3 million people remain out of work, and economists say it will take at least five years to regain the nearly 8 million jobs wiped out during the recession. The nation’s unemployment rate is expected to hover near 10 percent through the end of year.