Washington: New US President Barack Obama gave notice Tuesdsay that an era of economic “greed and irresponsibility” is over as he pledged swift and bold action to kickstart the world’s biggest economy.
Warning the nation cannot long prosper “when it favours only the prosperous”, the new president told the cheering crowds that “everywhere we look, there is work to be done.
“Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age,” Obama said in his inaugural speech.
“Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly; our schools fail too many; and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.”
The way forward, the new president pledged, was to act now.
“The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act -- not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth.
“We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together.”
In the runup to his inauguration, Obama warned of a “tough year” ahead and a recession that will linger for much longer unless Congress takes “dramatic” action on his mammoth stimulus plan.
The US Senate has set the stage for an early victory for the new president by freeing up the second $350 billion slice of a financial bailout, leaving the House of Representatives to act this week.
Democratic House leaders also laid out their $825 billion version of Obama’s stimulus plan, which he hopes to drive through Congress in a first jolt to the crisis-mired economy.
The package, designed to create or preserve three to four million jobs in the sinking US economy, includes billions of dollars to spark a fast track development of alternative energy industries and sources.
“Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions -- who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans,” Obama said in his speech, in answer to concerns from some Republican lawmakers who oppose big government.
Dismissing them as “stale political arguments,” he said “the question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works.”
He also promised to hold to account those who manage tax dollars in order to restore trust between the people and the government.
“Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill,” he said, apparently seeking to deflect fears raised during the campaign that he leaned toward socialism.
“Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched, but this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control -- and that a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous,” he said.
The first African-American president underlined the importance of spreading wealth by extending “opportunity to every willing heart” as part of sound economic policy, rather than charity.