President-elect Barack Obama has called for the creation of a jobs program targeting transportation infrastructure, schools and clean energy projects as a means to put as many 2.5 million Americans to work. Mr. Obama’s “Economic Recovery” plan comes as the nation’s economic picture shows no sign of improving in the foreseeable future. The incoming President’s announcement follows the commitment he made in his first post-election press conference to make the nation’s economic recovery his first priority when assuming office on January 20.
Mr. Obama said, “While I’m pleased that Congress passed a long-overdue extension of unemployment benefits this week, we must do more to put people back to work and get our economy moving again. We have now lost 1.2 million jobs this year, and if we don’t act swiftly and boldly, most experts now believe that we could lose millions of jobs next year.” His announcement was made as Congress failed last week to move on an economic stimulus package, hung up for the most part, over a request by the nation’s “Big Three” automobile manufactures to bail out the failing U.S. auto industry. President-elect Obama had encouraged Congress and the President to pass and sign an economic stimulus, and if they did not act he indicated it would the first order of business for his administration.
With unemployment hovering around 6.5 percent, and Black unemployment almost 12 percent, the loss of jobs is being fueled by the collapse of the financial sector and accelerated by the wave of major corporations announcing significant layoffs and some filing Chapter 11 bankruptcy. With consumer confidence very low and poor prospects for the holiday sales season, the economy is not showing any signs of rebounding on its own. The belief among many Members of Congress, mostly Democrats, is that a second stimulus package has to reach far down enough to have any measurable impact.
President-elect Obama, who noted the ongoing debate over the specific provisions that, should be in a second stimulus package, said, “But what is not negotiable is the need for immediate action. Right now, there are millions of mothers and fathers who are lying awake at night wondering if next week’s paycheck will cover next month’s bills. There are Americans showing up to work in the morning only to have cleared out their desks by the afternoon. Retirees are watching their life savings disappear and students are seeing their college dreams deferred. These Americans need help, and they need it now.”
His call for action comes as he begins to finalize his economic team, with Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico being tapped for Secretary of Commerce, former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers chosen to lead the National Economic Council, and Timothy Geithner chosen to be Treasury Secretary. The President-elect indicated that the details of the plan are forthcoming.