20110907 barackobama
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during an address to the 2011 American Legion National Convention at the Minneapolis Convention Center Aug. 30, 2011. - 

Steve Chiotakis: President Obama tonight goes before Congress to lay out his plans to reduce unemployment. But the president's been in office
for more than 2.5 years. So this morning we ask, was there anything Mr. Obama could've done earlier to spark a more robust recovery?

From Washington, here's Marketplace's John Dimsdale.

John Dimsdale: When he arrived at the White House, President Obama continued the bailout of big banks. He also propped up the auto industry and spent $800 billion to stimulate the economy.

Jared Bernstein was a White House economic adviser at the time. He says all those measures worked well.

Jared Bernstein: They just didn't last long enough. So if there was anything that was kind of missed, it was the length and depth of this kind of a recession.

What made this recession deeper and longer, economists say, is the bursting of the housing bubble. That left many consumers a lot poorer and unwilling to spend money.

William Galston is a former policy adviser for President Clinton.

William Galston: The home mortgage crisis isn't just a piece of the problem, it's the nub of the problem.

Galston says in exchange for the government bailout, Congress should have required the banks to write down some of the principal and interest on troubled mortgages. He says the White House could have forced that through -- if the president's team hadn't been so focused on other issues.

Galston: If you spend a lot of time in the midst of an economic emergency on issues like health care reform and climate change, that's time that you don't have to spend on the economic crisis.

Galston says the president should have created an infrastructure bank, in addition to housing reforms. Both, he says, would have paid longer-term dividends in reversing a deeper downturn than the president realized in the beginning.

In Washington, I'm John Dimsdale for Marketplace.