US President Barack Obama took to the airwaves to promote his economic aid plan by emphasizing its benefits for average Americans: thousands of better schools, lower electricity bills and health coverage for millions who lose their insurance along with their jobs.
It was the latest appeal from the new president for a massive spending bill designed to inject almost US$1 trillion into the economy and fulfill campaign pledges.
As lawmakers consider an US$825 billion plan and Obama woos them with an eye toward a second economic package, he used his first radio and Internet address from the White House to update the public about his goals.
“Our economy could fall US$1 trillion short of its full capacity, which translates into more than US$12,000 in lost income for a family of four. And we could lose a generation of potential, as more young Americans are forced to forgo college dreams or the chance to train for the jobs of the future,” he said on Saturday in a five-minute address.
“In short, if we do not act boldly and swiftly, a bad situation could become dramatically worse,” he said.
Obama aides have refused to rule out that the administration would seek a second economic recovery plan — even before Congress approves the first — to patch an ailing economy.
Some are considering a sequel to assuage members of their own Democratic Party who fret that too little of the money is going toward public works projects that would employ their constituents.
Along with the speech, Obama’s economic team released a report designed to outline tangible benefits of the plan and shore up support.
Aides said they wanted people to understand exactly what they could expect if Congress supported the proposed legislation.
The US lost 2.6 million jobs last year, the most in any single year since World War II. Manufacturing is at a 28-year low and even Obama’s economists say unemployment could top 10 percent before the recession ends. One in 10 homeowners is at risk of foreclosure and the dollar continues its slide in value. On Friday, 1st Centennial Bank of Redlands, California, became the third US bank to fail this year.
The president and his top economic advisers met at the White House on Saturday to discuss economic issues.
The two-hour session focused on the proposed US$825 billion economic stimulus package that Congress is considering.
The group also discussed the upcoming federal budget, Obama’s first chance to shape the country’s spending.
A day earlier, Obama invited Democratic and Republican leaders to the White House to hear their ideas on the economy.
“We presented President Obama with our ideas to jump start the economy through fast-acting tax relief — not slow-moving government spending programs,” House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio said in the weekly Republican address. “We let families, entrepreneurs, small businesses and the self-employed keep more of what they earn to encourage investment and create millions of new private-sector jobs.”
Boehner said the Republicans would cut taxes for every taxpayer, dropping even the lowest income tax rates.
“That’s up to an extra US$3,200 per family every year — money that can be saved, spent or invested in any way you see fit,” he said.
He also proposed a tax credit for home purchases, an end to taxation of unemployment benefits and tax incentives for small businesses to invest in new equipment and hire new employees.