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Obama Envisions Massive Economic Stimulus


With the reeling U.S. economy his top concern, President-elect Barack Obama will announce members of his economic team at a news conference Monday. VOA's Michael Bowman reports from Washington, Mr. Obama and his aides are signaling their intention to lay the groundwork for swift action on the economic front when the new administration takes over in January.

In his radio address Saturday, the president-elect spoke of his determination to jump-start the American economy and create millions of jobs through large-scale infrastructure projects and alternative energy initiatives. He has also pledged to cut taxes for middle-income workers and small businesses.

But while Mr. Obama must wait until Inauguration Day - January 20 - to begin implementing his economic program, he is moving quickly to form his economic team and craft proposals in consultation with congressional leaders.

David Axelrod, who served as Mr. Obama's campaign strategist and will be a senior advisor in the new administration, spoke on Fox News Sunday.

"The economic recovery plan we are going to bring in January has to be big enough to deal with the huge problem we face, to do the range of things we need to do - not just to get out of our problems in the short-term, but to build our economy in the long-term," said David Axelrod. "Our hope is the new Congress begins work on this as soon as they take office in January, because we do not have time to waste."

Given a contracting economy with rising unemployment and a plummeting stock market, Mr. Obama clearly believes that aggressive government action is required to reverse America's financial slide.

An economic advisor to the president-elect, Austan Goolsbee, says the amount of money Mr. Obama wants to commit to a stimulus program is much larger than what he envisioned during the campaign.

"It [the stimulus plan] has to be big," said Austan Goolsbee. "In the campaign, he [Obama] was looking at stimulus in the $175 billion range, and the economy has gotten substantially worse since then. We have got to make investments in the future of this country, and we have got to provide relief to ordinary Americans, to 95 percent of Americans. And that will be in the package."

Goolsbee was speaking on the CBS program Face the Nation.

The November 4 election increased the Democratic Party's majorities in both houses of Congress, which may make it easier for Mr. Obama to win passage of his economic plan. In the meantime, the outgoing Bush administration has signaled its willingness to consider some modest measures, such as an extension of federal benefits for the unemployed. There appears to be no consensus in Washington on how to rescue U.S. automakers, all of which could face bankruptcy in coming months.

Democratic congressional leaders say, in the weeks ahead, they will work with the Obama team to draft a stimulus plan they hope can be voted on and signed into law when Mr. Obama takes office.

New York Senator Charles Schumer, a member of the Senate Finance Committee, spoke on ABC's This Week program.

"I believe we need a pretty big [stimulus] package," said Charles Schumer. "First, I think Congress will work with the president-elect starting now and will have a major stimulus package on his desk by Inauguration Day. In my view, it has to be between $500 and $700 billion. And that is because our economy is in serious, serious trouble."

The president-elect has stated his desire to forge a bipartisan consensus on all major initiatives undertaken during his administration. When it comes to economic stimulus, Republicans have ideas of their own, including an extension of the tax cuts enacted during the Bush administration - some of which Mr. Obama has pledged to eliminate.

The ranking Republican on the Senate Banking Committee, Richard Shelby of Alabama, is taking a wait-and-see approach regarding the Obama economic program.

"I would like to see the details of any stimulus package: what it would do, how it would work, and who would benefit from it," said Richard Shelby. "One thing we better be careful about is not just throwing money [at the problem], borrowing money and throwing it at deals. I want to support things that area meaningful for the economy."

Shelby was also speaking on This Week.

Meanwhile, numerous media reports say Mr. Obama has tapped Federal Reserve official Tim Geithner as the next Treasury Secretary, and picked New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson to be Commerce Secretary. Former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers is expected to be named White House economic advisor.

New York Senator Hillary Clinton is widely reported to be Mr. Obama's first choice for Secretary of State, but no formal announcement has been made.
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