The President-elect’s plan

Last Thursday, President-elect Barack Obama gave a major speech outlining his American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan.

We asked some of the leading members of the Transition’s policy teams to sit down and talk a bit about it—why it’s necessary, how it will work, and how we’ll make sure it’s as efficient and effective as it is bold.

We compiled their responses into a short video, touching on each of the major elements of the plan.

Watch the video now, and discuss it below:

Also available on Vimeo or Yahoo.
Download higher resolution .mp4 file (68 MB) here.

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Video: Christina Romer explains a new report about job creation

Christina Romer, the Chair-designate for the Council of Economic Advisers, discusses a new report about what kinds of jobs and which types of workers will benefit from the proposed American Recovery Act.

Learn more about the three to four million new jobs that could be created by reading the report written by Romer and Jared Bernstein, the chief economist for the Office of the Vice President-elect. And watch the interview with Romer here:

Download higher resolution .mp4 file (93.1 MB) here.
Also available on Vimeo.

Turning around unemployment

The high unemployment numbers released this week rattled the country, as anxiety about the deepening recession hit home to more and more American families.

President-elect Obama's Weekly Address responds with an urgent call for immediate and dramatic action to get our economy working again.

The President-elect's proposed plan won't just create jobs -- it will also provide help for those who have lost theirs with bi-partisan measures to families and states hit hardest by this recession.

Two members of the Transition economic team -- Dr. Christina Romer and Dr. Jared Bernstein -- have analyzed the plan and project that it will likely save or create three to four million jobs. Their report is here.

Watch the President-elect's weekly address and read the full text below.

Closed captioning available after video begins playing.
Download higher resolution .mp4 file (57 MB) here.
Also available on Vimeo and Yahoo.
Audio available in English and in Spanish.

Remarks of President-Elect Barack Obama
Radio Address
Saturday, January 10, 2008
Washington, DC

We start this new year in the midst of an economic crisis unlike any we have seen in our lifetime.  We learned yesterday that in the past month alone, we lost more than half a million jobs – a total of nearly 2.6 million in the year 2008.  Another 3.4 million Americans who want and need full-time work have had to settle for part-time jobs.  And families across America are feeling the pinch as they watch debts mount, bills pile up and savings disappear.

These numbers are a stark reminder that we simply cannot continue on our current path.  If nothing is done, economists from across the spectrum tell us that this recession could linger for years and the unemployment rate could reach double digits – and they warn that our nation could lose the competitive edge that has served as a foundation for our strength and standing in the world.

It’s not too late to change course – but only if we take immediate and dramatic action.  Our first job is to put people back to work and get our economy working again.  This is an extraordinary challenge, which is why I’ve taken the extraordinary step of working – even before I take office – with my economic team and leaders of both parties on an American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan that will call for major investments to revive our economy, create jobs, and lay a solid foundation for future growth.

I asked my nominee for Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, Dr. Christina Romer, and the Vice President-Elect’s Chief Economic Adviser, Dr. Jared Bernstein, to conduct a rigorous analysis of this plan and come up with projections of how many jobs it will create – and what kind of jobs they will be.  Today, I am releasing a report of their findings so that the American people can see exactly what this plan will mean for their families, their communities, and our economy.

The report confirms that our plan will likely save or create three to four million jobs.  90 percent of these jobs will be created in the private sector – the remaining 10 percent are mainly public sector jobs we save, like the teachers, police officers, firefighters and others who provide vital services in our communities.

The jobs we create will be in businesses large and small across a wide range of industries.  And they’ll be the kind of jobs that don’t just put people to work in the short term, but position our economy to lead the world in the long-term.

We’ll create nearly half a million jobs by investing in clean energy – by committing to double the production of alternative energy in the next three years, and by modernizing more than 75% of federal buildings and improving the energy efficiency of two million American homes. These made-in-America jobs building solar panels and wind turbines, developing fuel-efficient cars and new energy technologies pay well, and they can’t be outsourced.

We’ll create hundreds of thousands of jobs by improving health care – transitioning to a nationwide system of computerized medical records that won’t just save money, but save lives by preventing deadly medical errors.  And we’ll create hundreds of thousands more jobs in education, equipping tens of thousands of schools with 21st century classrooms, labs and computers to help our kids compete with any worker in the world for any job.

We’ll put nearly 400,000 people to work by repairing our infrastructure – our crumbling roads, bridges and schools.  And we’ll build the new infrastructure we need to succeed in this new century, investing in science and technology, and laying down miles of new broadband l ines so that businesses across our nation can compete with their counterparts around the world. 

Finally, we won’t just create jobs, we’ll also provide help for those who’ve lost theirs, and for states and families who’ve been hardest-hit by this recession.  That means bi-partisan extensions of unemployment insurance and health care coverage; a $1,000 tax cut for 95 percent of working families; and assistance to help states avoid harmful budget cuts in essential services like police, fire, education and health care.

Now, given the magnitude of the challenges we face, none of this will come easy.  Recovery won’t happen overnight, and it’s likely that things will get worse before they get better.

But we have come through moments like this before.  We are the nation that has faced down war, depression and fear itself – each time, refusing to yield; each time, refusing to accept a lesser fate.  That is the spirit that has always sustained us – that belief that our destiny is not written for us, but by us; that our success is not a matter of chance, but of our own courage and determination.  Our resources may be finite, but our will is infinite.  And I am confident that if we come together and summon that great American spirit once again, we will meet the challenges of our time and write the next great chapter in our American story.

Transition Co-Chair Podesta urges DTV deadline extension

In a letter released yesterday, Transition Co-Chair John D. Podesta urged Congressional leaders to reconsider and extend the date by which consumers must outfit their television sets for digital broadcasting (DTV).

The mandated switch from analog to digital reception, originally scheduled for February 17th, 2009, has not been adequately funded, according to Mr. Podesta.

The letter notes that as many as 5 million Americans could lose their television reception if the deadline is not reconsidered.

"There is insufficient support for the problems consumers (particularly low income, rural and elderly Americans) will experience as a result of the analog signal cutoff," Podesta wrote.

Read the full letter here.

Open for Questions Round 2: Response

When we closed out the first round of Open for Questions with around 20,000 people participating, 10,000 questions submitted, and 1,000,000 votes on which we should answer, we were thrilled. But we were also concerned that the splash of unveiling this new tool meant that would be the high-water mark.

During this second round, we decided to leave the voting open significantly longer, but even with that extra time we were surprised to see the final totals: 103,512 people submitted 76,031 questions and cast 4,713,083 votes. We can now be confident that the success of the first round was not just about a new trick, but just a hint of the willingness of the public to permanently change the way they interact with their government. There’s plenty of room to grow.

For this round we refined the process to make it more user-friendly, and broke out the questions into categories. We think this made for a more interesting experience, and ensured that a broader array of questions could get exposure. But we also wanted to try a new way of responding to the questions, so this time instead of text answers, we asked incoming White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs to sit down with us. Since there were so many popular questions in so many categories, we tried to pull out some of them that had been addressed previously by the President-elect or Vice President-elect in order to focus the video portion on questions that haven’t been as specifically addressed during the Transition.

Download higher resolution .mp4 file (53 MB) here.
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“Previously Addressed Questions”
These popular questions have been answered previously by top officials or in the prior edition of “Open for Questions.”

“Will you appoint a Special Prosecutor (ideally Patrick Fitzgerald) to independently investigate the gravest crimes of the Bush Administration, including torture and warrantless wiretapping?” -- Bob Fertik, New York City

Vice President-elect Biden, 12/21/08: “[T]he questions of whether or not a criminal act has been committed or a very, very, very bad judgment has been engaged in is -- is something the Justice Department decides. Barack Obama and I are -- President-elect Obama and I are not sitting thinking about the past. We're focusing on the future… I'm not ruling [prosecution] in and not ruling it out. I just think we should look forward. I think we should be looking forward, not backwards.”

UPDATE: After these answers were posted, President-elect Obama was asked this question for the January 11th edition of ABC's "This Week," this was his response:

STEPHANOPOULOS: The most popular question on your own website is related to this. On it comes from Bob Fertik of New York City and he asks, "Will you appoint a special prosecutor ideally Patrick Fitzgerald to independently investigate the greatest crimes of the Bush administration, including torture and warrantless wiretapping."

OBAMA: We're still evaluating how we're going to approach the whole issue of interrogations, detentions, and so forth. And obviously we're going to be looking at past practices and I don't believe that anybody is above the law. On the other hand I also have a belief that we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards. And part of my job is to make sure that for example at the CIA, you've got extraordinarily talented people who are working very hard to keep Americans safe. I don't want them to suddenly feel like they've got to spend all their time looking over their shoulders and lawyering [up].

“What will President Obama do to bring about an independent Palestinian state and bring an end to the violence in the West Bank and Gaza?” -- Katherine, Virginia

President-Elect Obama, 1/5/09: “I am not backing away at all from what I said during the campaign that starting at the beginning of the administration we are going to engage effectively and consistently in trying to resolve the conflicts that exist in the Middle East. That is something that I am committed to -- I think it is not only right for the people in that region, most importantly it is right for the national security of the American people and the stability that is so important to this country. So on January 20th you will be hearing directly from me and my opinions on this issue. Until then my job is to monitor the situation and to put together the best possible national security team to hit the ground running once we are responsible for national security.”

“I'm concerned about the banks who received tax payers money and have had no accountability. Will this be corrected after President-elect Obama is in office?” --Dorothy, Tucson Az

Open for Questions Response, 12/15/08: “President-elect Barack Obama does not believe an economic crisis is an excuse for wasteful and unnecessary spending. As our economic team works with congressional leadership to put together a plan, we will put in place reforms to ensure that your money in invested well. We will also bring Americans back into government by amending executive orders to ensure that communications about regulatory policymaking between persons outside government and all White House staff are disclosed to the public. In addition all appointees who lead the executive branch departments and rulemaking agencies will be required to conduct the significant business of the agency in public so that every citizen can see in person or watch on the Internet these debates.”

“Will you consider legalizing cannabis/marijuana/hemp so that the government can regulate it, tax it, put age limits on it, and create millions of new jobs and create a multi-billion dollar industry right here in the U.S.?” -- DJ C, Chicago, IL

Open for Questions Response, 12/15/08: “President-elect Obama is not in favor of the legalization of marijuana.”

Obama announces Panetta and Blair for intel posts

"Good intelligence is not a luxury – it is a necessity," President-elect Obama said this morning as he announced Admiral Dennis Blair as his choice to be Director of National Intelligence and Leon Panetta as his choice to lead the Central Intelligence Agency.

"Here in Washington....We have learned that to make pragmatic policy choices, we must insist on assessments grounded solely in the facts, and not seek information to suit any ideological agenda," President-elect Obama said. "To support those who carry out our intelligence mission, we must give them the resources they need and the clear guidance they deserve. And we know that to be truly secure, we must adhere to our values as vigilantly as we protect our safety – with no exceptions. I am confident that Dennis Blair and Leon Panetta are the right leaders to advance the work of our intelligence community."

You can read the full text of President-elect Obama's announcement and see pictures and video below.

High-resolution, .mp4 format available here.
Remarks of President-Elect Barack Obama - As prepared for delivery
Announcement of Intelligence Team
January 9, 2009
Washington, D.C.

Before I discuss today’s announcement, I’d like to say a few words about the latest jobs numbers that we received this morning.

Yesterday, I spoke about the need to pass the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan so that we can jumpstart job creation, invest in our future, and lay a foundation for long-term economic growth. This morning, we received a stark reminder of how urgently action is needed.

524,000 jobs were lost in December across nearly all major American industries. That means that our economy lost jobs in all 12 months of 2008, and that the nearly 2.6 million jobs lost last year amount to the single worst year of job loss since World War II. The unemployment rate is now over 7 percent. Clearly, the situation is dire, it is deteriorating, and it demands urgent and dramatic action.

My staff and I have been engaged in a constructive dialogue with members of Congress over the last few days and weeks about my American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan which will save or create at least 3 million jobs, and make long-term investments in the critical areas of energy, health care and education. We have made good progress in these consultations, and I look forward to working closely with Congress to shape legislation that will work for the American people.

But let me be clear: today’s jobs report only underscores the need for us to move forward with a sense of urgency and common purpose. Behind each and every one of those millions of jobs lost there are workers and families who are counting on us as they struggle to pay the bills or stay in their homes. There are American dreams that are being deferred and that risk being denied. There is a devastating economic crisis that will become more and more difficult to contain with time. For the sake of our economy and our people, this is the moment to act, and to act without delay.

Now I’d like to say a few words about today’s appointments. Over the past few weeks, Vice President-Elect Biden and I have been working with our national security appointees so that we’re ready to hit the ground running on January 20th. Today, I’m pleased to complete our team by announcing my choices to lead the intelligence community and the CIA.

It is hard to overstate the importance of good intelligence in the 21st century.  When much of our intelligence community was founded, it was focused on one overarching threat: the Soviet Union. Today, we face a world of unconventional challenges – from the spread of stateless terrorist networks and weapons of mass destruction, to the grave dangers posed by failed states and rogue regimes.

As we learned on 9/11, we are not protected by the distance of an ocean or the ability to deter an enemy. There is no margin for error. To keep our people safe, we must seamlessly collect, analyze, share, and act on information with a sense of urgency. This requires the selfless services of countless patriots, and the skillful management of our sixteen intelligence agencies. Good intelligence is not a luxury – it is a necessity.

The men and women of the intelligence community have been on the front lines in this world of new and evolving dangers. They have served in the shadows, saved American lives, advanced our interests, and earned the respect of a grateful nation. There have been sound reforms and many successes to build on over the last several years.

But here in Washington, we have also learned some tough lessons. We have learned that to make pragmatic policy choices, we must insist on assessments grounded solely in the facts, and not seek information to suit any ideological agenda. To support those who carry out our intelligence mission, we must give them the resources they need and the clear guidance they deserve. And we know that to be truly secure, we must adhere to our values as vigilantly as we protect our safety – with no exceptions.

I am confident that Dennis Blair and Leon Panetta are the right leaders to advance the work of our intelligence community. They are public servants with unquestioned integrity, broad experience, strong management skills, and the core pragmatism we need in dangerous times. Together, they will form a team that is uniquely qualified to continue the good work that is being done, while making the changes we need to stay ahead of nimble threats and sustain the trust of the American people.  

Admiral Dennis Blair has seen the diverse uses of intelligence from many different perspectives. Over several decades in uniform, he learned firsthand the necessity of good intelligence for our men and women in uniform. As Commander of US forces in the Pacific, he developed a deep understanding of the critical importance of Asia, and carried out a major offensive against violent extremists. And as a former NSC staffer and the first Associate Director of Central Intelligence for Military Support, he is uniquely qualified to build bridges of cooperation among our national security institutions.

As DNI, Dennis will be the leader and manager of our intelligence community. He will have my full support as he develops our capabilities, strengthens information sharing, enhances cooperation with foreign governments, and provides policymakers with the information we need – even if it’s not always the information we want. As someone who has handled intelligence as a sailor at sea and strategic thinker in Washington, he will have the expertise and authority to ensure that our sixteen intelligence agencies act with unity of effort and purpose.

Admiral Blair’s experience will be exceptionally complemented by Leon Panetta, my choice to be director of the CIA. Leon is one of the finest public servants of our time, and has committed himself to his country since he put on the uniform of the US Army. As a Congressman, OMB Director, and White House Chief of Staff, he has unparalleled experience in making the institutions of government work better for the American people. He has handled intelligence daily at the very highest levels, and time and again he has demonstrated sound judgment, grace under fire, and complete integrity.

Let me be clear: in Leon Panetta, the Agency will have a director who has my complete trust and substantial clout. He will be a strong manager and a strong advocate for the CIA. He knows how to focus resources where they are needed, and he has a proven track record of building consensus and working on a bipartisan basis with Congress. I am confident that he will strengthen the CIA’s capability to protect the American people as it continues to adapt to our reformed intelligence community.

I will also rely on the talent and expertise of several distinguished public servants with substantial intelligence experience. The current DNI, Mike McConnell, will continue to offer his counsel through my Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. The National Counter-Terrorism Center – the hub of our efforts to prevent attacks and root out terrorist networks – will continue to benefit from the leadership of Michael Leiter. And I'm pleased to announce that John Brennan – a close advisor, CIA veteran and former leader of the National Counter-Terrorism Center  – will be my Homeland Security Advisor and Deputy National Security Advisor for Counterterrorism, serving with the rank of Assistant to the President.  John has the experience, vision and integrity to advance America's security.

The demands on the intelligence community are huge and growing. To have a successful and sustainable national security strategy, I have made it clear that we will need to deploy and balance all elements of American power – our military, diplomacy, homeland security, economic might and moral suasion. Good intelligence work is necessary to support each of these endeavors.

Right now, there are men and women working around the world to bear this burden. We may never know their names, but we will always honor their sacrifice. The task for the team that I have assembled is to guide, support, and integrate their efforts so that we protect our security and safeguard the values that all of us have pledged to uphold. Thank you.

Obama announces Kaine as new DNC Chair (Update: Video)

President-elect Barack Obama today announced Virginia Governor Tim Kaine as his choice to be the new chair of the Democratic National Committee. The President-elect made the announcement this afternoon at DNC headquarters in Washington, D.C.

See pictures and video from the announcement below.

High-resolution, .mp4 format available here.

Sen. Daschle calls for “paradigm shift” during confirmation hearing

Health and Human Services Secretary-designate Tom Daschle appeared before a Senate confirmation hearing this morning and called for bold changes in the way Americans and their government think about health care.

"I think we need to change the paradigm in this country on health," Secretary-designate Daschle said. "It starts with that big picture belief. The paradigm needs be changed from illness to wellness."

Sen. Daschle advocated new approaches to the problems facing American families, noting that his charge in leading HHS will require working across governmental lines to fix ailing health care systems.

He noted the importance of "breaking down stovepipes so that the inter-relationship between these agencies can do a better job of coordinating this effort."

When rural health care issues were raised, Sen. Daschle spoke passionately about solutions to the unique problems many communities face.

He emphasized the need for expanded broadband Internet access to facilitate a modernized health care information technology system.

President-elect Obama has repeatedly stressed the vital role of increased broadband penetration in improving the quality of a variety of services across America, including health care.

We'll have more on Secretary-designate Daschle and his Transition health care team coming up soon.

Dramatic action (Update 2: Video)

"The time has come to build a 21st century economy in which hard work and responsibility are once again rewarded," President-elect Obama said in a speech this morning, making the case for urgent action on an American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan.

The plan will save or create 3 million jobs by doubling the production of alternative energy; weatherizing 75% of federal buildings and two million American homes; computerizing America’s medical records; updating thousands of schools, community colleges, and public universities; expanding broadband; and investing in science, research, and technology.

You can read President-elect Obama's remarks below and view pictures and video of the event below.

High-resolution, .mp4 format available here.


Remarks of President-Elect Barack Obama
As Prepared for Delivery
American Recovery and Reinvestment
Thursday, January 8, 2009

Throughout America’s history, there have been some years that simply rolled into the next without much notice or fanfare.  Then there are the years that come along once in a generation – the kind that mark a clean break from a troubled past, and set a new course for our nation.

This is one of those years. 

We start 2009 in the midst of a crisis unlike any we have seen in our lifetime – a crisis that has only deepened over the last few weeks.  Nearly two million jobs have now been lost, and on Friday we are likely to learn that we lost more jobs last year than at any time since World War II.  Just in the past year, another 2.8 million Americans who want and need full-time work have had to settle for part-time jobs.  Manufacturing has hit a twenty-eight year low.  Many businesses cannot borrow or make payroll.  Many families cannot pay their bills or their mortgage.  Many workers are watching their life savings disappear.  And many, many Americans are both anxious and uncertain of what the future will hold. 

I don’t believe it’s too late to change course, but it will be if we don’t take dramatic action as soon as possible.  If nothing is done, this recession could linger for years.  The unemployment rate could reach double digits.  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.  We could lose a generation of potential and promise, as more young Americans are forced to forgo dreams of college or the chance to train for the jobs of the future.  And our nation could lose the competitive edge that has served as a foundation for our strength and standing in the world. 

In short, a bad situation could become dramatically worse.

This crisis did not happen solely by some accident of history or normal turn of the business cycle, and we won’t get out of it by simply waiting for a better day to come, or relying on the worn-out dogmas of the past.  We arrived at this point due to an era of profound irresponsibility that stretched from corporate boardrooms to the halls of power in Washington, DC.  For years, too many Wall Street executives made imprudent and dangerous decisions, seeking profits with too little regard for risk, too little regulatory scrutiny, and too little accountability.  Banks made loans without concern for whether borrowers could repay them, and some borrowers took advantage of cheap credit to take on debt they couldn’t afford.  Politicians spent taxpayer money without wisdom or discipline, and too often focused on scoring political points instead of the problems they were sent here to solve.  The result has been a devastating loss of trust and confidence in our economy, our financial markets, and our government.

Now, the very fact that this crisis is largely of our own making means that it is not beyond our ability to solve.  Our problems are rooted in past mistakes, not our capacity for future greatness.  It will take time, perhaps many years, but we can rebuild that lost trust and confidence.  We can restore opportunity and prosperity.  We should never forget that our workers are still more productive than any on Earth.  Our universities are still the envy of the world.  We are still home to the most brilliant minds, the most creative entrepreneurs, and the most advanced technology and innovation that history has ever known.  And we are still the nation that has overcome great fears and improbable odds.  If we act with the urgency and seriousness that this moment requires, I know that we can do it again.

That is why I have moved quickly to work with my economic team and leaders of both parties on an American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan that will immediately jumpstart job creation and long-term growth.

It’s a plan that represents not just new policy, but a whole new approach to meeting our most urgent challenges. For if we hope to end this crisis, we must end the culture of anything goes that helped create it – and this change must begin in Washington.  It is time to trade old habits for a new spirit of responsibility.  It is time to finally change the ways of Washington so that we can set a new and better course for America.

There is no doubt that the cost of this plan will be considerable.  It will certainly add to the budget deficit in the short-term.  But equally certain are the consequences of doing too little or nothing at all, for that will lead to an even greater deficit of jobs, incomes, and confidence in our economy.  It is true that we cannot depend on government alone to create jobs or long-term growth, but at this particular moment, only government can provide the short-term boost necessary to lift us from a recession this deep and severe.  Only government can break the vicious cycles that are crippling our economy – where a lack of spending leads to lost jobs which leads to even less spending; where an inability to lend and borrow stops growth and leads to even less credit.

That is why we need to act boldly and act now to reverse these cycles.  That’s why we need to put money in the pockets of the American people, create new jobs, and invest in our future.  That’s why we need to re-start the flow of credit and restore the rules of the road that will ensure a crisis like this never happens again. 

That work begins with this plan – a plan I am confident will save or create at least three million jobs over the next few years.  It is not just another public works program.  It’s a plan that recognizes both the paradox and the promise of this moment – the fact that there are millions of Americans trying to find work, even as, all around the country, there is so much work to be done.   That’s why we’ll invest in priorities like energy and education; health care and a new infrastructure that are necessary to keep us strong and competitive in the 21st century.  That’s why the overwhelming majority of the jobs created will be in the private sector, while our plan will save the public sector jobs of teachers, cops, firefighters and others who provide vital services.

To finally spark the creation of a clean energy economy, we will double the production of alternative energy in the next three years.  We will modernize more than 75% of federal buildings and improve the energy efficiency of two million American homes, saving consumers and taxpayers billions on our energy bills.  In the process, we will put Americans to work in new jobs that pay well and can’t be outsourced – jobs building solar panels and wind turbines; constructing fuel-efficient cars and buildings; and developing the new energy technologies that will lead to even more jobs, more savings, and a cleaner, safer planet in the bargain. 

To improve the quality of our health care while lowering its cost, we will make the immediate investments necessary to ensure that within five years, all of America’s medical records are computerized.  This will cut waste, eliminate red tape, and reduce the need to repeat expensive medical tests.  But it just won’t save billions of dollars and thousands of jobs – it will save lives by reducing the deadly but preventable medical errors that pervade our health care system.

To give our children the chance to live out their dreams in a world that’s never been more competitive, we will equip tens of thousands of schools, community colleges, and public universities with 21st century classrooms, labs, and libraries.  We’ll provide new computers, new technology, and new training for teachers so that students in Chicago and Boston can compete with kids in Beijing for the high-tech, high-wage jobs of the future. 

To build an economy that can lead this future, we will begin to rebuild America.  Yes, we’ll put people to work repairing crumbling roads, bridges, and schools by eliminating the backlog of well-planned, worthy and needed infrastructure projects.  But we’ll also do more to retrofit America for a global economy.  That means updating the way we get our electricity by starting to build a new smart grid that will save us money, protect our power sources from blackout or attack, and deliver clean, alternative forms of energy to every corner of our nation.  It means expanding broadband lines across America, so that a small business in a rural town can connect and compete with their counterparts anywhere in the world.  And it means investing in the science, research, and technology that will lead to new medical breakthroughs, new discoveries, and entire new industries. 

Finally, this recovery and reinvestment plan will provide immediate relief to states, workers, and families who are bearing the brunt of this recession.  To get people spending again, 95% of working families will receive a $1,000 tax cut – the first stage of a middle-class tax cut that I promised during the campaign and will include in our next budget.  To help Americans who have lost their jobs and can’t find new ones, we’ll continue the bipartisan extensions of unemployment insurance and health care coverage to help them through this crisis.  Government at every level will have to tighten its belt, but we’ll help struggling states avoid harmful budget cuts, as long as they take responsibility and use the money to maintain essential services like police, fire, education, and health care. 

I understand that some might be skeptical of this plan.  Our government has already spent a good deal of money, but we haven’t yet seen that translate into more jobs or higher incomes or renewed confidence in our economy.  That’s why the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan won’t just throw money at our problems – we’ll invest in what works.  The true test of the policies we’ll pursue won’t be whether they’re Democratic or Republican ideas, but whether they create jobs, grow our economy, and put the American Dream within reach of the American people.

Instead of politicians doling out money behind a veil of secrecy, decisions about where we invest will be made transparently, and informed by independent experts wherever possible.  Every American will be able to hold Washington accountable for these decisions by going online to see how and where their tax dollars are being spent.  And as I announced yesterday, we will launch an unprecedented effort to eliminate unwise and unnecessary spending that has never been more unaffordable for our nation and our children’s future than it is right now.

We have to make tough choices and smart investments today so that as the economy recovers, the deficit starts to come down.  We cannot have a solid recovery if our people and our businesses don’t have confidence that we’re getting our fiscal house in order.  That’s why our goal is not to create a slew of new government programs, but a foundation for long-term economic growth.

That also means an economic recovery plan that is free from earmarks and pet projects.  I understand that every member of Congress has ideas on how to spend money.  Many of these projects are worthy, and benefit local communities.  But this emergency legislation must not be the vehicle for those aspirations.  This must be a time when leaders in both parties put the urgent needs of our nation above our own narrow interests. 

Now, this recovery plan alone will not solve all the problems that led us into this crisis.  We must also work with the same sense of urgency to stabilize and repair the financial system we all depend on.  That means using our full arsenal of tools to get credit flowing again to families and business, while restoring confidence in our markets.  It means launching a sweeping effort to address the foreclosure crisis so that we can keep responsible families in their homes.  It means preventing the catastrophic failure of financial institutions whose collapse could endanger the entire economy, but only with maximum protections for taxpayers and a clear understanding that government support for any company is an extraordinary action that must come with significant restrictions on the firms that receive support.  And it means reforming a weak and outdated regulatory system so that we can better withstand financial shocks and better protect consumers, investors, and businesses from the reckless greed and risk-taking that must never endanger our prosperity again.

No longer can we allow Wall Street wrongdoers to slip through regulatory cracks.  No longer can we allow special interests to put their thumbs on the economic scales.  No longer can we allow the unscrupulous lending and borrowing that leads only to destructive cycles of bubble and bust. 

It is time to set a new course for this economy, and that change must begin now.  We should have an open and honest discussion about this recovery plan in the days ahead, but I urge Congress to move as quickly as possible on behalf of the American people.  For every day we wait or point fingers or drag our feet, more Americans will lose their jobs.  More families will lose their savings.  More dreams will be deferred and denied.  And our nation will sink deeper into a crisis that, at some point, we may not be able to reverse.

That is not the country I know, and it is not a future I will accept as President of the United States.  A world that depends on the strength of our economy is now watching and waiting for America to lead once more.  And that is what we will do.

It will not come easy or happen overnight, and it is altogether likely that things may get worse before they get better.  But that is all the more reason for Congress to act without delay.  I know the scale of this plan is unprecedented, but so is the severity of our situation.  We have already tried the wait-and-see approach to our problems, and it is the same approach that helped lead us to this day of reckoning.

That is why the time has come to build a 21st century economy in which hard work and responsibility are once again rewarded.  That’s why I’m asking Congress to work with me and my team day and night, on weekends if necessary, to get the plan passed in the next few weeks.  That’s why I’m calling on all Americans – Democrats and Republicans – to put good ideas ahead of the old ideological battles; a sense of common purpose above the same narrow partisanship; and insist that the first question each of us asks isn’t “What’s good for me?” but “What’s good for the country my children will inherit?” 

More than any program or policy, it is this spirit that will enable us to confront this challenge with the same spirit that has led previous generations to face down war, depression, and fear itself.  And if we do – if we are able to summon that spirit again; if are able to look out for one another, and listen to one another, and do our part for our nation and for posterity, then I have no doubt that years from now, we will look back on 2009 as one of those years that marked another new and hopeful beginning for the United States of America.  Thank you, God Bless You, and may God Bless America. 

Presidents past, present, and future

President-elect Barack Obama met at the White House today with President George W. Bush and former Presidents Jimmy Carter, George H. W. Bush, and Bill Clinton.

See pictures from the meeting below.

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