US president-elect Barack Obama has increased his employment goal with the country’s economic outlook worsening, seeking to create or save 3 million jobs in the next two years rather than the 2.5 million he proposed last month.
Obama set the more ambitious target last week after meeting with top economic advisers who cautioned that the nation’s unemployment rate could exceed 9 percent given the current pace of job losses, Obama transition officials said on Saturday.
During the campaign for the White House, Obama pledged to create or save 1 million jobs. He increased that goal to 2.5 million over two years just last month.
Obama and his family traveled Saturday to his home state of Hawaii for a two-week vacation. But advisers were using Obama’s guidance for a draft stimulus package to have ready when he returns on Jan. 2, advisers said.
Obama met US vice president-elect Joe Biden and his economic team on Tuesday in Chicago.
Transition officials said Christina Romer, an economics professor who Obama has chosen as chair of his Council of Economic Advisers, opened the meeting by arguing that historical data and wide-ranging expert opinions suggest that upcoming economic problems could be more severe than anything the country has faced over the past half century. She said the country is likely to lose another 3 million to 4 million jobs over the next year without significant action.
Biden and Obama responded by pushing for a more ambitious jobs plan, driven by federal investments in health care, education and energy that could have a stimulative effect and lay the groundwork for long-term reform and a more sustainable economy. Ideas included weatherizing 1 million homes, shifting to a paperless health system, investing in disease prevention and modernizing schools.
Obama’s team and congressional staff over the last week have been scrambling to come up with details of a plan to pump up the droopy economy with US$650 billion or more in government spending over the next few years.
The aides met in the basement of the Capitol on Friday to devise ways to invest public money in science, energy, education, health care and infrastructure programs, as well as to help the poor and unemployed.
They hope unleashing a torrent of spending in the near term will create jobs and lift the economy.
Obama and his Democratic allies in Congress want to enact the still-emerging plan as soon as possible after he takes office on Jan. 20.
The plan, which some Obama aides think could swell to about US$850 billion after negotiations with Congress, would be the largest investment in public infrastructure since the federal highway system was established in the 1950s. It also would provide tens of billions in dollars of aid to financially strapped states.
Obama declined on Friday to put a price tag on his plan, but said the economic problems require a bold approach.