Obama aide promotes job plan, warns automakers

By: AP
By: AP

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The market's positive reaction to President-elect Barack Obama's choice of treasury secretary was gratifying, a top Obama adviser said Sunday, and set the stage for a massive economic aid plan in January.

The market soared almost 500 points on Friday with word Obama had settled on Timothy Geithner (pronounced GITE-ner) as a leader in the new economic team that he planned to announce Monday. The president-elect also outlined a plan over the weekend aimed at creating or saving 2.5 million jobs over the next two years by spending billions of dollars on public work projects and developing alternative energy sources.

Aides want swift congressional action and Democrats leaders seem willing.

Obama senior adviser David Axelrod said the 47-year-old Geithner, the current president of the New York Federal Reserve, is the right person to help deal with the severe economic crisis.

"The response has been great, and it should be - Tim Geithner is uniquely qualified to do this job," said Axelrod, who appeared on two Sunday talk show broadcasts.

Axelrod also warned automakers, who are seeking billions of dollars in government help to stave off collapse, to devise a plan to retool and restructure their industry. Otherwise, he said, "there is very little taxpayers can do to help them."

The developing economic aid plan is expected to be significantly larger than the $175 billion proposal Obama had discussed during his presidential campaign.

"Our hope is that the new Congress begins work on this as soon as they take office in early January, because we don't have time to waste here, " he said. "We want to hit the ground running on January 20th." The new Congress is sworn in on Jan. 6, two weeks before Obama takes the oath of office.

So much bad news is dragging down the markets these days in the way of weak earning reports and looming bankruptcies for major companies such as automakers. As a result, traders - and the public - are desperate for any reassurance that the problems will be dealt with at some point.

Among the most pressing economic issues is the fate of the auto industry. Congress last week rebuffed appeals for help from executives from GM, Chrysler and Ford. Congressional leaders urged them to return next month with a specific reorganization plan that spelled out how much money they need and how they intended to remain financially viable.

Axelrod said "the signal sent by Congress was the right one."

The auto executives did not make a strong impression during congressional hearings last week - appearances that were further undermined upon news that they had flown to Washington in corporate jets.

Axelrod couldn't resist taking a jab at the executives.

"I hope that they will come back to Washington in early December - on commercial flights - with a plan," he said.

While news of Obama's probable treasury secretary rallied markets on Friday, the Dow had lost a staggering 873 points, more than 10 percent of its value, and the broader Standard & Poor's 500 index had sunk to its lowest level since 1997 in the previous two days.

On Saturday, Obama announced his plan to save or create 2.5 million jobs by investing billions of dollars to rebuild roads and bridges, modernize schools and develop alternative energy sources and 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. A video was available on Obama's transition Web site.

Obama hopes to get the ambitious plan quickly through Congress, with help from both parties, after he takes office.

On the heels of his jobs announcement, transition staffers confirmed that two of his top economic advisers - Geithner and Larry Summers, as head of the National Economic Council.

Geithner would have chief responsibility for tackling the economic slowdown and credit crunch. At the New York Fed, he has played a critical role in the government's response to the financial crisis and has worked closely with Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Ben Bernanke, the Fed chairman.

Summers, 53, treasury secretary under President Bill Clinton and one-time president of Harvard University, will advise Obama from the White House. Summers would help coordinate federal response, including the jobs plan announced Saturday.

Axelrod appeared on "Fox News Sunday" and "This Week" on ABC.

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On the Net:

Obama transition: http://www.change.gov

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