President-elect Barack Obama promoted an economic plan Saturday he said would provide 2.5 million jobs by rebuilding roads and bridges and modernizing 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 goal is to get the plan quickly through Congress, with help from both parties, after Obama takes office Jan. 20. The plan, which envisions those new jobs by January 2011, is "big enough to meet the challenges we face," he said. The president-elect said he has asked his economic advisers to flesh out the recovery plan — one "big enough to meet the challenges we face. ... We'll be working out the details in the weeks ahead, but it will be a two-year, nationwide effort to jump-start job creation in America and lay the foundation for a strong and growing economy."
Obama's radio address talked about the goal of job creation and said his economic plan "will mean 2.5 million more jobs by January of 2011." The Obama Web site on Saturday said his plan will "save or create" 2.5 million jobs. Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs confirmed later Saturday that the plan "will save and create" the 2.5 million jobs.
In his address, Obama noted the growing evidence the country is "facing an economic crisis of historic proportions" and said he was pleased Congress passed an extension of unemployment benefits this past week. But, he added, `We must do more to put people back to work and get our economy moving again."
Nonetheless, he said, "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."
It will take support from Democrats and Republicans to pass the economic plan, Obama said. "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."
People "are lying awake at night wondering if next week's paycheck will cover next month's bills," if their jobs will remain, if their retirement savings will disappear, he added.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said congressional Democrats will "continue pushing for aggressive but necessary measures. Part of that is passing a substantial economic recovery package, like the one President-elect Obama discussed this morning, that creates good-paying jobs here in America and stabilizes a volatile market."
In a slap at President George W. Bush, Reid added, "We will soon finally have a leader and partner in the White House who recognizes the urgency with which we must turn around our economy, and I look forward to working with him and the new Congress to do so."
The Labor Department reported that claims for unemployment benefits jumped last week to the highest level since July 1992, providing fresh evidence of the weakening job market.
"We'll put people back to work rebuilding our crumbling roads and bridges, modernizing schools that are failing our children, and building wind farms and solar panels," Obama said. He also made a commitment to fuel-efficient cars and alternative energy technologies "that can free us from our dependence on foreign oil and keep our economy competitive in the years ahead."
Greg Wetstone, director of government and public affairs for the American Wind Energy Association, applauded Obama's plans to expand alternative energy resources and called it a "concept very much branded in reality."
"With the policies he has outlined for renewable energy, President-elect Obama is removing the single largest impediment to renewable energy development in this country, which has been the absence of a long-term federal commitment to deploy these technologies."
A spokesman for the trucking industry's main trade group on Saturday said the group, the American Trucking Associations, supports investments in infrastructure as a method of reducing the nation's overall carbon emissions and cutting delays and congestion.
"But nothing is going to help the trucking industry except for an increase in trade and repairs to the economy," said Clayton Boyce, vice president of public affairs for the ATA.
Obama pointed to the past as a reason for optimism, saying that Americans in this country's darkest hours have risen above their divisions to solve their problems, as a hope for the future.
"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."