Obama pledges to tackle US economy

President-elect to “act swiftly” on “greatest economic crisis of our lifetime”.

Obama, far right, has been holding talks with his economic advisory team [EPA]
Obama, far right, has been holding talks with his economic advisory team [EPA]

Obama and Biden had earlier held talks with their advisory board – including former White House officials and high-ranking executives from companies such as Time Warner, Google and the Hyatt hotel company, in Chicago.

Al Jazeera’s Rob Reynolds in Chicago says Obama seemed “very self-confident and self-assured in a way that would tell Americans he is in charge”. 

Stimulus package

The news conference was held on the same day that the US announced a sharp rise in the number of job losses from 6.1 per cent in September to 6.5 per cent in October.

Obama said he “appreciated” Bush’s
commitment to the economy [AFP]

In addition, General Motors, the largest US car-manufacturer, reported a $4.2 billion quarterly loss and said it would cut jobs and slash spending to cope with a drop in sales.

Obama pledged assistance to the US motor vehicle industry, which he called “the backbone of American manufacturing”, and said one of the first things he wished to see was the passage of another economic stimulus package – the third this year.

“We are going to need to see a stimulus package passed, either before or after inauguration [on January 20] … it will be the first thing I get done as president of the United States,” he said.

However he made it clear he was not to take any action until he entered the White House.

He said he had spoken to George Bush, the US president and that “I appreciate his commitment to ensuring that his economic policy team keeps us fully informed as developments unfold.”

Obama is not expected to attend the G20 economic summit next weekend in Washington, in which possible action on the global financial turmoil is to be discussed.

Priorities discussed

Obama, who will become the US’s first black president on January 20, also said that he and his economic team had discussed economic priorities once he entered office.

They included efforts to create jobs, provide tax relief for the US middle class, assisting small businesses, foreclosures and looking at long-term priorities such as clean energy, health care and education.

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“I do not underestimate the enormity of the task that lies ahead,” he said.

“Some of those choices will be difficult, but America is a strong and resilient country. I know that we will succeed if we put aside partisanship and work together as one nation.”

Throughout the brief news conference Obama took only a few questions from journalists, including just one on foreign policy when he was questioned about the Iranian president’s message of congratulations to him on his election victory.

Obama reiterated his belief that any development by Iran of a nuclear weapon – which it denies – is “unacceptable” and that it must cease to support “terrorist groups”.

He also said he would respond “appropriately” to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s message, but that the US approach to Iran could not be done in a “knee-jerk” fashion.

“I think we’ve got to think it through,” he said.

Marwan Bishara’s senior political analyst, said that Obama was lowering expectations in the knowledge that the US economic crisis was moving “into perhaps becoming a depression” and he may not be able to focus as much on global issues.

“The president-elect knows that, as soon as he gets into the White House, the economic problems are going to be so steep and diffiult it is going to be difficult to concentrate on anything else going on in the world,” he says.

A new administration

The meetings come amid continuing speculation over appointments in Obama’s new administration, including the likelihood of David Axelrod, the chief strategist of his election campaign team, becoming his senior adviser.

Emanuel is to become Obama’s White
House chief of staff [GALLO/GETTY]

On Thursday Rahm Emanuel, a Democratic congressman from Illinois, accepted Obama’s offer to become White House chief-of-staff, and was already present at the conference on Friday.

Obama has been meeting privately with his transition team since winning the presidential election, in addition to receiving intelligence briefings and congratulatory calls from world leaders and, most crucially, deciding appointments in his future administration.

In addition to Emanuel’s appointment and reports of Axelrod’s move, there were also reports that Obama was set to appoint Robert Gibbs, a former spokesman for John Kerry, the defeated 2004 Democratic presidential candidate, as the White House press secretary.

Several members of Bill Clinton’s administration are also being mentioned as possible Obama cabinet members, including the head of Obama’s transitional team, John Podesta, a former senior aide to Clinton.

Obama and his wife, Michelle, are scheduled to visit the White House on Monday at the invitation of George Bush, the US president.

Source : Al Jazeera, News Agencies


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