WASHINGTON – President-elect Barack Obama on Saturday outlined his plan to create 2.5 million jobs in coming years to rebuild roads and bridges and modernize schools while developing alternative energy sources and more efficient cars.
"These aren't just steps to pull ourselves out of this immediate crisis; these are the long-term investments in our economic future that have been ignored for far too long," Obama said in the weekly Democratic radio address. The economic recovery plan being developed by his staff aims to create 2.5 million jobs by January 2011, and he wants to get it through Congress quickly and sign it soon after taking office.
He called the plan "big enough to meet the challenges we face" and said that it will jump-start job creation but also "lay the foundation for a strong and growing economy."
Aides said the economic plan outlined Saturday went further that the president-elect has gone before.
A trio of crises — housing, credit and financial — have badly damaged the economy, and financial analysts have projected the country's economic hardships will continue through much of 2009.
Obama acknowledged Saturday that evidence is growing the country is "facing an economic crisis of historic proportions." He noted turmoil on Wall Street, a decrease in new home purchases, growing jobless claims and the menacing problem of deflation.
He said he was pleased Congress passed an extension of unemployment benefits this week, but added, "We must do more to put people back to work and get our economy moving again."
Figures out this week showed new claims for jobless aid had reached a 16-year high. "If we don't act swiftly and boldly, most experts now believe that we could lose millions of jobs next year," Obama said.
He cautioned, "There are no quick or easy fixes to this crisis, which has been many years in the making, and it's likely to get worse before it gets better." But Obama said Inauguration Day, Jan. 20, "is our chance to begin anew."
Obama said getting congressional approval for his broad economic plan will not be easy.
"I will need and seek support from Republicans and Democrats, and I'll be welcome to ideas and suggestions from both sides of the aisle," he said. "But what is not negotiable is the need for immediate action."
Across the country, Americans "are lying awake at night wondering if next week's paycheck will cover next month's bills," people are showing up at work to clear out their desks and retirees are watching their life savings disappear, Obama said.
On Thursday, the Labor Department reported that claims for unemployment benefits jumped last week to 542,000. That marked the highest level since July 1992 and provided fresh evidence of a rapidly weakening job market that is expected to get even worse next year.
In this country's darkest hours, the American people have risen above their divisions to solve their problems, he said.
"We have acted boldly, bravely, and above all, together," Obama said. "That is the chance our new beginning now offers us, and that is the challenge we must rise to in the days to come. It is time to act. As the next president of the United States, I will."