He warned that the economy could further deteriorate, plunging the nation into dire times, absent quick action by Washington on a huge stimulus package.
“Only government can break the vicious cycles that are crippling our economy – where a lack of spending leads to lost jobs, which leads to even less spending,” said Obama.
His stimulus package is still evolving but is expected to total $800 billion or more. It will be a conglomeration of tax breaks, infrastructure projects, aid to state and local governments, and other initiatives, according to transition officials and legislators.
Energy will be front and center
Among the specific goals it will attempt to encourage, Obama said Thursday, are a doubling of domestic alternative-energy production over the next three years, an improvement in energy efficiency for 2 million American homes, the computerization of US medical records within five years, and the expansion of broadband Internet access across the nation.
“Yes, we’ll put people to work repairing crumbling roads, bridges, and schools by eliminating the backlog of well-planned, worthy, and needed infrastructure projects. But we’ll also do more to retrofit America for a global economy,” he said.
Transition officials had hoped Congress could have a bill ready for Obama to sign upon his accession to the presidency on Jan. 20, but that timeline has slipped to mid-February at the earliest.
Many economists support the idea of a new US government stimulus effort to pull the economy out of the current slump. Even Harvard economist Martin Feldstein, a Republican who advised President Ronald Reagan, said as much during an appearance on Capitol Hill Jan. 7.