Obama rips 'doom and despair' Republicans on economy, defends oil tax

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Hours after the Democratic presidential candidates went toe-to-toe on the debate stage in New Hampshire, President Obama used the bully pulpit Friday to take a shot at Republicans for spreading “doom and despair” on the economy – touting new jobs data while defending a proposed oil tax critics say will undermine any economic progress.

The new data, while reflecting a slowdown in job growth, nevertheless showed the unemployment rate dipping to 4.9 percent.

In remarks at the White House Friday, Obama said the U.S. now has the "strongest, most durable economy in the world." He also took a swipe at Republicans.

“I know that’s still inconvenient for Republican stump speeches," he said, before accusing them of embarking on a “doom and despair” tour in New Hampshire.

“Evidence, facts are on our side,” Obama said.

Obama’s remarks come a day before Republican 2016 candidates line up in New Hampshire for another debate, during which the economy is likely to be discussed at length.

Obama, meanwhile, defended his controversial proposal for a $10-per-barrel tax on oil companies in order to fund clean transport technology.

House Speaker Paul Ryan has called the forthcoming budget proposal part of an "out of touch" agenda and warned the proposed tax would raise energy prices, "hurting poor Americans the most."

Obama countered that with gas prices so low, the impact would be minimal.

“It’s right to do it now when gas prices are really low," he said.

Critics claim the levy would be passed on to consumers, something White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest effectively conceded on Friday. He said he“would not be surprised if they did pass that along” to consumers.

The 4.9 percent unemployment in January is the lowest it’s been under President Obama and came after the Labor Department announced employers added 151,000 jobs last month.