President Barack Obama on Saturday laid out more pieces of an economic plan he says would add 3,000 miles of electrical lines, increase security at 90 ports and double the United States' renewable energy capacity within three years.
It was the latest appeal from the new president for a massive spending bill designed to inject almost a trillion dollars into a flailing U.S. economy and to fulfill campaign pledges. As members of Congress consider an $825 billion plan and Obama woos them, his White House released a radio and Internet address directed at voters who want answers.
"Our economy could fall $1 trillion short of its full capacity, which translates into more than $12,000 in lost income for a family of four. And we could lose a generation of potential, as more young Americans are forced to forgo college dreams or the chance to train for the jobs of the future," Obama said in a five-minute address that the White House released early Saturday.
"In short, if we do not act boldly and swiftly, a bad situation could become dramatically worse."
Along with the speech, Obama's economic team released a report designed to outline tangible benefits of the plan and shore up support. Aides said they wanted people to understand exactly what they could expect — more schools, lower electricity bills — if their members of Congress supported the proposed legislation.
The United States lost 2.6 million jobs last year, the most in any single year since World War II. Manufacturing is at a 28-year low and even Obama's economists say unemployment could top 10 percent before the recession ends. One in 10 homeowners are at risk of foreclosure and the dollar continues its slide in value.
That harsh reality has dominated Obama's first days in office and prompted a Saturday meeting of his economic team at the White House during their first weekend in power.
A day earlier, he invited Democratic and Republican leaders to the White House to hear their ideas on the economy, yet Obama didn't share the plan's specifics while they visited.
Many of the goals in the speech and report were familiar from Obama's two-year campaign, like shifting to electronic medical records and investing in preventive health care. Other parts added specifics.
Obama's recovery package aims to:
- Double within three years the amount of energy that could be produced from renewable resources, an ambitious goal given the 30 years it took to reach current levels. Advisers say that could power 6 million households.
- Upgrade 10,000 schools and improve learning for about 5 million students.
- Save $2 billion a year by making federal buildings energy efficient.
- Triple the number of undergraduate and graduate fellowships in science.
The plan would spend at least 75 percent of the total cost — or more than $600 billion — within the first 18 months, providing a massive infusion of cash to the struggling economy, either through bricks-and-shovels projects favored by Democrats or tax cuts that Republicans have pushed. Either could produce progress the administration could point to if it needs to justify a second economic package.
The broad plan puts heavy emphasis on infrastructure that crumbled as state budgets contracted. Governors have lobbied Obama to help them patch holes in their budgets, drained by sinking tax revenues and increased need for public assistance like Medicaid and children's health insurance. Obama's plan would increase the federal portion of those programs so no state would have to cut any of the 20 million children whose eligibility is now at risk.
Obama's plan would also provide health care coverage for 8.5 million Americans who lose their insurance when they either lose or shift jobs.
"It's a plan that will save or create 3 to 4 million jobs over the next few years" and recognizes "there are millions of Americans trying to find work even as, all around the country, there's so much work to be done," he said.
But he cautioned again against expecting instant results: "No one policy or program will solve the challenges we face right now, nor will this crisis recede in a short period of time."
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