Obama: Inaction is threat to America's economy
FAIRFAX, Va. -- President-elect Barack Obama launched his campaign to sell the most ambitious government spending plan in American history Thursday, urging Congress to act swiftly on his upcoming proposal to jump-start the economy or risk dooming...
FAIRFAX, Va. -- President-elect Barack Obama launched his campaign to sell the most ambitious government spending plan in American history Thursday, urging Congress to act swiftly on his upcoming proposal to jump-start the economy or risk dooming the country to a diminished future.
"We should have an open and honest discussion about this recovery plan in the days ahead," Obama said in a half-hour speech before an invitation-only audience at George Mason University in suburban Washington.
"But I urge Congress to move as quickly as possible on behalf of the American people. For every day we wait or point fingers or drag our feet, more Americans will lose their jobs. More families will lose their savings. More dreams will be deferred and denied. And our nation will sink deeper into a crisis that, at some point, we may not be able to reverse."
His stark message marked an extraordinary move, coming from a man who hasn't yet taken office and has yet to offer any details of his plan. However, he also noted that these are extraordinary times, a rare turning point.
"I don't believe it's too late to change course, but it will be if we don't take dramatic action as soon as possible," he said.
"If nothing is done, this recession could linger for years. The unemployment rate could reach double digits," Obama continued. "Our economy could fall $1 trillion short of its full capacity, which translates into more than $12,000 in lost income for a family of four. We could lose a generation of potential and promise, as more young Americans are forced to forgo dreams of college or the chance to train for the jobs of the future. And our nation could lose the competitive edge that has served as a foundation for our strength and standing in the world."
Obama acknowledged that his effort has grown more difficult with the forecast that this year's federal budget deficit will reach a record $1.2 trillion.
"I understand that some might be skeptical of this plan. Our government has already spent a good deal of money, but we haven't yet seen that translate into more jobs or higher incomes or renewed confidence in our economy," he said.
"There is no doubt that the cost of this plan will be considerable. It will certainly add to the budget deficit in the short term. But equally certain are the consequences of doing too little or nothing at all, for that will lead to an even greater deficit of jobs, incomes and confidence in our economy."
As negotiations with Congress accelerated behind closed doors, Obama urged around-the-clock work to get a proposal ready and through Congress soon after he takes office Jan. 20.
Republicans lauded Obama for reaching out to them, but withheld support until they see the details.
Obama did offer a few new details of what he would propose, including:
* Energy efficiency improvements in 2 million private homes and 75 percent of all government buildings, a move he said would create jobs now and save billions of dollars later in energy costs.
* Computerizing all medical records within five years, a move that proponents hope will cut health-care costs later.
* Improving labs and classrooms in schools.
* Boosting science and technology research to produce medical breakthroughs and new industries.
* Expanding broadband access, particularly in small towns and rural America, so that small businesses can better compete with wired rivals overseas.
He also repeated his campaign pledge of $1,000 tax cuts that he said would go to 95 percent of "working families." During his campaign, he promised those tax reductions to individuals who make less than $200,000 a year and couples who make less than $250,000.
Obama's proposed tax cuts ran into opposition from senators in his own party who said they wouldn't do much to stimulate the economy or create jobs.
They were especially critical of a proposed $3,000 tax credit for companies that hire or retrain workers.
"If I'm a business person, it's unlikely if you give me a several-thousand-dollar credit that I'm going to hire people if I can't sell the products they're producing," said Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., a member of the committee.
Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., said, "I'd rather spend the money on the infrastructure, on direct investment, on energy conversion, on other kinds of things that much more directly, much more rapidly and much more certainly create a real job."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.