PRESIDENT OBAMA: I think as was already mentioned to you, I'm not going to comment beyond the statement that I made today. Obviously, we're in the process of a series of plans and I want to make sure that we're sending out some clear messages, so the statement I made today to the American people, I think that should stand on its own.
JIM: Once the opposition in Bahrain and Yemen hear your speech, and presumably they already have, they may well say 'why not us?' Why not them? Are they on the horizon?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: As I said, I think I've got to keep a very narrow focus right now on the statement I made with respect to Libya.
JIM: Can you gauge yet the potential impact on the American economic recovery by what's going on in Japan?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: You know, we've taken a look at it. I've asked my economic team to look at it. Obviously, our first concern is humanitarian and we are doing everything we can to help the Japanese people, providing them supplies, helping them on recovery, and dealing with this nuclear crisis.
Japan is the third largest economy in the world, so, the fact that they've been struck with these horrendous tragedies will have some impact on world markets; we're already seeing that in the stock markets around the world, although there's been some recovery over the last couple days.
Historically, a major event like this does not have a lasting impact on economic recovery, but we're going to be monitoring it carefully and what we want to make sure is the momentum that's been built here in the United States, where businesses are starting to feel a little more optimistic, they're starting to hire, that that sustains itself.
Fortunately, I think that the package of tax breaks for businesses that are making investments, the payroll tax cut, those things that we did during December, that's helping to cushion some of the uncertainty that might be caused by this.
JIM: There are a lot of folks who watch Channel 6 who live in the shadows of nuclear power plants, at Limerick in Montgomery County, in Lacey Township and elsewhere in South Jersey, and what's happened in Japan has an inevitable psychological impact on many Americans. Will it have a substantive impact on the future of nuclear energy in the United States?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, here's what we know, is that in the wake of Three Mile Island, I think a lot of people were concerned and we didn't build new nuclear plants. What I've done is talked to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and have told them you need to make sure that we are taking into account every contingency when it comes to safety of these nuclear plants. I have confidence in the safety of our nuclear plants here in the United States, but obviously, we've got to factor in what happens when there's an earthquake, what happens if the power supply is caught off to cooling systems in these facilities, what kind of redundancy have we built it in?
So there's going to be a thorough going review. At this point, we have confidence in the safety and security of our existing nuclear systems, but I think people, rightfully, want to make sure that if this is going to continue to be a major source of U.S. power, and it accounts for about 20% of our power nationwide, then we've got to make sure that we've thought through, in the wake of Japan, all the possible contingencies to protect the American people.
JIM: Your trip to Chile and Brazil and El Salvador, what kind of a positive impact will it have on the economies of Pennsylvania and New Jersey?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: It's a wonderful story to tell when you look at a state like Pennsylvania or New Jersey. A lot of exporting activity is now happening in Latin America. We've seen several fold increases across the country, and Pennsylvania is one of the 15 top exporters to Brazil.
Brazil is now the seventh largest economy in the world; the United States is the largest exporter to Brazil. Every billion dollars that we export, we create 5,000 jobs here in United States. One of the transformations that we need to make in our economy is from an economy where we're borrowing a lot to buy somebody else's goods and, instead, focusing on producing goods that we're selling to somebody else.
Trips like this, what they allow me to do is to link small business and large businesses alike to business opportunities in these other countries and the support that we give them in promoting trade to these countries will end up creating opportunities both in manufacturing and service jobs in Pennsylvania and around the country.
JIM: Governor Corbett of Pennsylvania proposed his budget for 2012 two weeks ago and it's a budget that's actually 3% less than the current spending plan. One of the ways he does that is to slash a billion dollars in education funding and he's also calling on all teachers in Pennsylvania to accept a one-year wage freeze. What's your reaction to those two strategies?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, look, every state around the country is having a tough time balancing its budgets as a consequence of the recession and a drop in revenues. The Federal Government, obviously, we've got our own struggles to get our budget under control. I think it's entirely appropriate for governors, just like I have to do, to make some tough choices; we've froze, for example, federal pay for the next couple of years, as one of way of controlling domestic spending.
But I made very clear at the federal level and I think this is true at the state level, as well, what you don't want to do is to fail to invest in those things that are going to help us grow in the future and nothing is more important than education when it comes to how well Pennsylvania is going to do in the future, how well New Jersey is going to do in the future.
My hope is as the governor, working with state legislature, looks at their budgets, they say to themselves, 'there's some things we can do without, but something we can't do without is making sure our kids are doing well K through 12, that they're going to college, that they're prepared for careers, that job training is available for people who may get laid off and want to change careers midstream.'
Those are all smart investments to make, we should squeeze inefficiencies out of other parts of government, and we should make sure that education and teachers and school systems are accountable, that we're getting out money's worth, but we don't want to shortchange our future, otherwise what we'll end up doing is just making it harder and harder for us to grow and that's not good for Pennsylvania and that's not good for America.