Washington: President-elect Barack Obama has called again for “immediate and dramatic action” to deal with the deepening US economic crisis that has cost millions of Americans their jobs.
In his weekly radio and YouTube broadcast address on Saturday, Obama pointed out that he has taken the unusual step of working ahead of his 20 January inauguration with members of his own Democratic Party as well as the rival Republicans to seek consensus on a plan to stimulate a recovery from the recession.
“If nothing is done, economists from across the spectrum tell us that this recession could linger for years and the unemployment rate could reach double digits and they warn that our nation could lose the competitive edge that has served as a foundation for our strength and standing in the world,” he said.
The president-elect said that a new analysis by his economic advisers indicated that his economic recovery plan “will likely save or create three to four million jobs.”
Still, the 14-page analysis, which was posted online, noted that estimates are “subject to significant margins of error” because of the assumptions that went into the economic models and because it is not known what might be approved by Congress.
Obama has provided few details of his estimated $775 billion plan so far. This fresh report does not include the specific construction of his tax cuts, the amounts dedicated to state aid or public works key questions that Obama aides have closely held.
Some Congressional Republicans reacted skeptically, demanding that aid be carefully targeted and that help for the states be in the form of loans rather than grants.
“We want to make sure it’s not just a trillion-dollar spending bill, but something that actually can reach the goal that he has suggested,” said Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Senate’s top Republican.
Also Saturday, Obama’s transition team disclosed that he plans to take his first international trip to Canada. The aides said he would meet with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, but said they could not discuss the date for the trip or its agenda.
Obama’s family also took advantage of one of the last weekends before his presidency begins to do a little exploring in Washington.
Obama made an impromptu visit Saturday night with his family at the Lincoln Memorial, paying tribute to a beloved president he frequently invokes as an inspiration.
Obama arrived in his motorcade shortly after 7 pm local time. He stepped out with his wife Michelle and daughters Malia and Sasha and walked up the steps into the memorial.
Obama frequently invokes the memory of Abraham Lincoln and plans to use the same bible at his inauguration that Lincoln used for his swearing in.
Earlier, Obama joined Washington’s mayor, Adrian Fenty, at Ben’s Chili Bowl, a venerable diner in Washington’s U Street district.
In his broadcast address, Obama said that it was not too late to change the nation’s economic course “but only if we take immediate and dramatic action.”
But in a separate interview on ABC television’s “This Week” set to air Sunday, Obama also acknowledged that he may not be able to keep all of his campaign promises because of the economic crisis.
“I want to be realistic here,” he said. “Not everything that we talked about during the campaign ... (would be done) on the pace we had hoped.”
Last week, the government said the unemployment rate in the US had jumped to 7.2%, the highest in 16 years.
Obama’s plan to deal with the recession has met with some objections from lawmakers, who want to ensure that spending programs are targeted more toward consumers. There has been concern that much of the massive spending by the administration of President George W. Bush has gone to banks and corporations.
The president-elect agreed on Friday to modest changes in his proposed tax cuts. Democratic congressional officials said his aides came under pressure in private talks to jettison or significantly alter a proposed tax credit for creating jobs and to include relief for upper middle-class families.
In hopes of having the new president gain immediate access to bailout money already approved by Congress when he takes office later this month, his economic team and the Bush administration have discussed the possibility that Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson would ask lawmakers soon for access to the $350 billion remaining in the Wall Street rescue fund.
The transition team also has asked Neel Kashkari, the head of the rescue program at the Treasury Department, to remain in that position for a short time after the inauguration to help assure a smooth transition, according to an Obama official.