Obama economic plan to favor long-term projects: aides
AFP - Monday, December 29
WASHINGTON (AFP) - - President-elect Barack Obama's economic stimulus plan is an urgent matter that will favor long-term infrastructure and job creation projects over tactics aimed at boosting consumer spending, two of his top aides have said.
With the United States facing gloomy forecasts of up to 10 percent unemployment and a deepening recession in 2009 -- likely "the bleakest economic outlook since World War II" -- Lawrence Summers said Sunday creating three million new jobs was a "key pillar" of Obama's plan.
Obama senior adviser David Axelrod told CBS television the stimulus plan would cost between 675 billion and 775 billion dollars, but stressed that "those numbers are not fixed."
"In this crisis, doing too little poses a greater threat than doing too much," Summers, tapped to head the White House National Economic Council, wrote in an editorial in The Washington Post.
"Any sound economic strategy in the current context must be directed at both creating the jobs that Americans need and doing the work that our economy requires."
Summers, who served as Treasury secretary under former president Bill Clinton, signaled that Obama would adopt a different approach than President George W. Bush.
"Some argue that instead of attempting to both create jobs and invest in our long-run growth, we should focus exclusively on short-term policies that generate consumer spending," he said.
"But that approach led to some of the challenges we face today -- and it is that approach that we must reject if we are going to strengthen our middle class and our economy over the long run."
Obama's incoming administration and congressional leaders are "getting awful close" to a general agreement on the huge economic stimulus package the Obama team hopes to implement soon after the January 20 inauguration, vice president-elect Joseph Biden said last week.
"I don't think Americans can wait," Axelrod said.
"People are suffering, our economy is sliding and we need to act. So our message to Congress is to work on it with all deliberate speed."
Axelrod said the economic downturn adds urgency to repealing Bush's tax cuts for wealthier Americans and will not prevent the future Obama administration from enacting its planned middle-class tax cuts.
Bush's tax cuts are "something that we plainly can't afford moving forward. And whether it expires or whether we repeal it a little bit early we'll determine later, but it's going to go. It has to go." he told NBC.
He argued that eliminating the Bush tax cuts did not mean Obama would raise taxes.
Obama's economic stimulus plan "will amount to a net tax cut for the American people," he said. "We feel it's important that middle-class people get some relief now."
In terms of job creation, "we're talking about investing in alternative energy projects that will help us achieve energy independence. We're talking about rebuilding the nation's classrooms to bring them into the 21st century, and labs and libraries so our kids can compete," Axelrod added.
Around 80 percent of the three million new jobs Obama aims to create will be "in the private sector, including emerging sectors such as environmental technology," Summers said, calling it a "bold goal."
"Failure to create enough jobs in the short term would put the prospect of recovery at risk," Summers added.
"Failure to start undertaking necessary long-term investments would endanger the foundation of our recovery and, ultimately, our children's prosperity."
The Obama stimulus plan was originally intended to safeguard 2.5 million jobs in the next couple of years. But its scope was expanded to three million jobs earlier this month as the US economy sank deeper into recession.
Biden reaffirmed that Obama wants the new Democratic-led Congress to make the economic package its top priority when it convenes in early January, calling it "the most urgent order of business for the new administration."
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US President-elect Barack Obama departs a gym after his morning work out December 27, 2008 at Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kailua. Obama's economic stimulus plan is an urgent matter that will favour long-term infrastructure and job creation projects over tactics aimed at boosting consumer spending, two of his top aides have said.
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