Summers: Obama only acting out of 'necessity'

President Obama's chief economic adviser said Friday that the president has intervened in the financial marketplace only out of necessity.

Lawrence Summers defended Obama's economic actions, saying they have been "particularly consistent and firm since the crisis began while he was campaigning for president."

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Even as Capitol Hill Republicans are railing against the administration's interventions into the auto industry, Wall Street and healthcare, Summers said "the actions we take are those of necessity, not choice."

Summers, talking in New York City to the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), said the president has demonstrated "an unequivocal recognition that we only act when necessary to avert unacceptable — and in some cases dire — outcomes."  

"Barack Obama ran for president to restore America’s role in the world, reform our healthcare system, achieve energy independence and prepare our children for a 21st century economy," Summers said. "He did not run for president to manage banks, insurance companies or car manufacturers."

Republicans, however, insist that Obama has gone too far in extending government bailouts and, in the case of General Motors and other companies, federal ownership.

Summers said Obama "has been unambiguous in that any intervention go with, rather than against, the grain of the market system."

"Our objective is not to supplant or replace markets," Summers said in remarks distributed by the White House. "Rather, the objective is to save them from their own excesses and improve our market-based system going forward.

"What is crucial and where our focus has been as we have intervened when necessary, is on the intervention being temporary, based on market principles, and minimally intrusive."  

To that end, Summers said the president has made "financial regulatory reform a central legislative priority of this early phase of his administration."  

"While many of the details are complex, the necessary fixes come from the application of common sense in an area where complexity can blind sophisticated observers to the obvious," Summers noted.