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Obama vows to put US economy back on track

By Lalit K Jha in Washington
February 10, 2009 10:20 IST
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President Barack Obama said 2009 will be a "difficult year" for the US gripped with an unprecedented economic crisis and pledged to unveil a slew of measures to create four million jobs to bring the economy "back to life."

"...At this particular moment, with the private sector so weakened by this recession, the federal government is the only entity left with the resources to jolt our economy back to life," Obama said in his first news conference on Tuesday after assuming office on January 20.

In his opening remarks at the prime-time event, the President candidly spoke about the crisis confronting the US economy and promised radical changes in dealing with energy, education and health care sectors to create immediate jobs and stop the downward spiral.

Obama said the federal government only can break the "vicious cycle" gripping the US economy and appealed to the Congress to set aside its differences and pass the $ 800 billion stimulus package.

"It is only the government that can break the vicious cycle where lost jobs lead to people spending less money which leads to even more layoffs," he said.

He said the Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Plan is aimed at saving or creating up to 4 million jobs because "that is what America needs most right now."

The President said when passed, the stimulus plan will ensure that Americans who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own can receive greater unemployment benefits and continue their health care coverage.

"We will also provide a $ 2,500 tax credit to folks who are struggling to pay the cost of their college tuition, and $ 1000 worth of badly-needed tax relief to working and middle-class families," he said.

These steps will put more money in the pockets of those Americans who are most likely to spend it, and that will help break the cycle and get the economy moving, Obama said.

Obama said more than 90 per cent of the jobs created by the stimulus plan will be in the private sector.

"These will not be make-work jobs, but jobs doing the work that America desperately needs done. Jobs rebuilding our crumbling roads and bridges, and repairing our dangerously deficient dams and levees so that we don't face another (Typhoon) Katrina," he said.

Obama said the new jobs will be building the wind turbines and solar panels and fuel-efficient cars that will lower US' dependence on foreign oil, and modernising a costly health care system that will save billions of dollars and countless lives.

"They'll be jobs creating 21st century classrooms, libraries and labs for millions of children across America. And they'll be the jobs of firefighters, teachers and police

officers that would otherwise be eliminated if we do not provide the states with some relief," the President said.

He said tax cuts alone cannot solve all the economic problems the US is facing, especially tax cuts that are "targeted to the wealthiest few Americans. We have tried that strategy time and time again, and it has only helped lead us to the crisis we face right now."

Obama said after many weeks of debate and discussion, the stimulus plan that ultimately emerges from Congress must be "big enough and bold enough" to meet the size of the economic challenge US faces right now.

"It is a plan that is already supported by businesses representing almost every industry in America; by both the Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO. It contains input, ideas and compromises from both Democrats and Republicans.

"It also contains an unprecedented level of transparency and accountability, so that every American will be able to go online and see where and how we're spending every dime," the US President said.

Obama said despite all this, the plan is not perfect.

"No plan is. I can't tell you for sure that everything in this plan will work exactly as we hope, but I can tell you with complete confidence that a failure to act will only deepen this crisis as well as the pain felt by millions of Americans," the President said.
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Lalit K Jha in Washington
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