OBAMA FIRM DESPITE ANGER

WASHINGTON - Anger at how much has been spent propping up the US economy will not persuade US President Barack Obama to row back on his ambitious healthcare reform plans, the White House said yesterday.

WASHINGTON - Anger at how much has been spent propping up the US economy will not persuade US President Barack Obama to row back on his ambitious healthcare reform plans, the White House said yesterday.

Tens of thousands took to the streets of Washington on Saturday to attack Obama for his big spending and big government, accusing his administration of leading the US down into socialism.

"People are upset because on Monday (today) we celebrate the anniversary of the Lehman Brothers collapse that caused a financial catastrophe," said spokesperson Robert Gibbs.

"We've had to do some extraordinary things ... to rescue the financial system, to ensure that our domestic auto industry didn't go out of business, and to stimulate the economy."

But Gibbs said Obama, who is preparing to deliver a major speech on the economy in New York today, will not be deflected from his top priority domestic goal of overhauling the broken US healthcare system.

"I think what the American people want most of all ... is for Washington to put aside the game playing and start to solve the big problems that our country faces," he told CNN television.

"I know that's what the president believes he was elected to do. And it would be a good start to deal with healthcare."

Obama is ramping up efforts to sell his reform package and on Wednesday addressed a rare joint session of Congress in a bid to regain control of the debate after an August of feisty town hall meetings dominated by opposition to his plans.

He faced down critics on Saturday with a stark warning to a 15000-strong crowd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, that any American could lose their coverage under the current system.

Obama cited new analysis from the treasury department that found nearly half of all Americans under 65 will lose health coverage at some point during the next 10 years.-Sapa-AFP

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