Obama begins to set economic course
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado
CHICAGO ” Eager to calm economic anxieties, President-elect Barack Obama is rolling out an economic vision that will require congressional cooperation even before he settles into his new desk in the White House’s Oval Office.
Obama will introduce his new economic leadership team Monday, a key step toward enacting a huge new economic recovery plan that aims to save or create 2.5 million jobs over the next two years.
The plan is likely to far exceed the $175 billion Obama proposed during the campaign. It would include an infusion of money for infrastructure projects, new environmental technologies and tax cuts for low- and middle-income taxpayers. It will not call for tax hikes for the wealthy.
Obama aides on Sunday called on the new Congress to pass by the Jan. 20 inauguration legislation that meets Obama’s two-year goal of saving or creating 2.5 million jobs. Democratic congressional leaders said they would get to work when Congress convenes Jan. 6 with bigger Democratic majorities in the House and Senate.
With the wounded economy worsening, the Obama team’s new assertiveness was a recognition he needed to soothe financial markets with signs of leadership. It also foreshadowed a more hands-on role by Obama to influence congressional action during the final weeks of the transition.
Heading his economic team will be Timothy Geithner as treasury secretary and Lawrence Summers as head of the National Economic Council. Obama also has settled on New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson as his commerce secretary.
“We don’t have time to waste here, ” Obama senior adviser David Axelrod said. “We want to hit the ground running on January 20.”
Echoing that, the second-ranking House Democrat, Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, said, “We expect to have during the first couple of weeks of January a package for the president’s consideration when he takes office.”
While Obama and his team are focused on the work of the new Congress, they also weighed in work pending before the current one.
Axelrod warned automakers seeking billions in government help to stave off collapse to devise a plan to retool and restructure that they can present to Congress next month. Otherwise, he said, “there is very little taxpayers can do to help them.”
The emphasis on the economy began Saturday when Obama outlined the framework to save or create 2.5 million jobs by the end of 2010. The scope of the recovery package is far more ambitious than Obama had spelled out during his presidential campaign, when he proposed $175 billion of spending and tax-cutting stimulus. The new plan will be significantly larger and incorporate his campaign ideas for new jobs in environmentally friendly technologies ” the “green economy.” It also would include his proposals for tax relief for middle- and lower-income workers.
But there were no plans to balance the tax cuts with an immediate tax increase on the wealthy. During the campaign, Obama said he would pay for increased tax relief by raising taxes on people making more than $250,000.
“There won’t be any tax increases in the January package,” said one Obama aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the details of the Obama package have not been fleshed out.
Obama could delay any tax increase to 2011, when current Bush administration tax cuts expire.
House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio urged Obama to make that explicit. “Why wouldn’t we have the president-elect say, ‘I am not going to raise taxes on any American in my first two years in office?'”
Some economists have endorsed spending up to $600 billion to revive the economy. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and former labor Secretary Robert Reich, a member of Obama’s economic advisory board, both suggested $500 billion to $700 billion.
“I don’t know what the number is going to be, but it’s going to be a big number,” Obama economic adviser Austan Goolsbee said. “It has to be. The point is to, kind of, get people back on track and startle the thing into submission.”
Axelrod and Schumer appeared on ABC’s “This Week”; Hoyer and Boehner appeared on “Fox News Sunday”; Goolsbee appeared on CBS’ “Face the Nation”; and Reich appeared on CNN’s “Late Edition.”
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Local fire officials in Pitkin, Eagle and Garfield counties are heightening their fire concerns, and starting this week Stage 1 fire restrictions will be enacted. Stage 1 means no campfires in undeveloped sites, no fireworks and no smoking outside unless it’s in an area cleared of all combustible materials.