Sun, Jan 04, 2009 - Page 1 News List

Obama calls for cooperation on economic plans

AGENCIES , CHICAGO

US president-elect Barack Obama said yesterday the struggling US economy could face more challenges and urged lawmakers to act quickly on recovery proposals even as some Republicans expressed concerns about plans for a huge stimulus package.

“As we mark the beginning of a new year, we also know that America faces great and growing challenges — challenges that threaten our nation’s economy and our dreams for the future,” Obama said in his weekly radio and Internet address.

“For too many families, this new year brings new unease and uncertainty as bills pile up, debts continue to mount and parents worry that their children won’t have the same opportunities they had,” he said.

Obama, who takes office on Jan. 20, is scheduled to meet next week in Washington with Democratic and Republican leaders to discuss his plan aimed at bolstering the US economy and creating 3 million jobs.

The president-elect will meet privately with Democratic congressional leaders tomorrow in the Capitol and will hold discussions later with leaders in both parties, said Brendan Daly, a spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Obama said economists agreed that if the US does not act “swiftly and boldly, we could see a much deeper economic downturn that could lead to double-digit unemployment and the American dream slipping further and further out of reach.”

He said the country needed an economic recovery and reinvestment plan to create jobs in the short-term and spur economic growth and competitiveness in the long term.

Obama gave few details of the plan, which has yet to be released by his transition team but has been estimated to cost between US$675 billion and US$775 billion. He said its No. 1 priority was to create 3 million jobs — more than 80 percent of them in the private sector.

Obama said the recovery plan should include strategic investments that would serve as a “down payment” on the US’ long-term economic future. In addition, as part of the plan the government must demand strict accountability and oversight and also must ensure the deficit be reduced as the economy recovers.

Democrats, who have a majority in Congress, want the economic stimulus to include tax relief for the middle class and spending on schools, roads and other infrastructure. States, which increasingly are having difficulties paying health-care costs for the poor, also would get federal money.

But Republicans on Capitol Hill have been warning that the economic package should not spend too much on government-funded projects and should not be rushed through Congress.

One element of the plan could be “buy American” language benefiting US industry, an Obama aide said on Friday.

Such a plan has been reportedly suggested by the steel industry as a way to help the country through the economic slowdown.

“We are reviewing the ‘buy American’ proposal and we are committed to a plan that will save or create 3 million jobs, including jobs in manufacturing,” said Jen Psaki, a spokeswoman for Obama’s transition team.

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