Obama calls for swift stimulus package
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TEXT OF INTERVIEW
Scott Jagow: The economy’s shrinking in every way imaginable. Today, the news was about jobs. So far this year, we’ve lost 1.2 million of them. The unemployment rate hasn’t been this high since 1994. Jobs seem to be the top priority for President-elect Obama. That’s what he led with at his news conference today.
President-elect Barack Obama: First of all, we need a rescue plan for the middle class that invests in immediate efforts to create jobs and provide relief to families that are watching their paychecks shrink and their life-savings disappear.
We’re joined now by our Washington bureau chief, John Dimsdale. Hi, John.
John Dimsdale: Hello, Scott.
Jagow: We know from the campaign what President-elect Obama wants to do in general, but John, at his first news conference did he give us any more specifics?
Dimsdale: Not really. He was pretty short on details. He said he favors another stimulus package and hopes that one will pass even before he takes over the White House. And if not, he said that that would be his first proposal as president. He specifically mentioned an extension of benefits for the unemployed and aid to cities and states — those are the things that he wants in a stimulus package.
Jagow: And what about industry? What did he say about that?
Dimsdale: He called for more government help for the auto industry, which he called the backbone of U.S. manufacturing. You know, given the warnings this week that one or more of the big three car makers may go bankrupt, he said that his economic team is exploring some sort of government support to help that industry retool to build more fuel efficient cars. But he didn’t say how much or how such subsidies would be delivered.
Jagow: John, there have been a lot of questions raised about the rescue package passed by Congress a few weeks ago. What is Obama thinking on that front?
Dimsdale: He said that his team is going to review the bailout to make sure that it really protects taxpayers and isn’t unduly rewarding banks and other financial firms. Again, you know, he doesn’t want to mess with what the Treasury is doing. There’s a risk of sending markets mixed signals — he starts talking about doing one thing with the rescue plan, while the Bush administration is talking about doing another. That could be counter-productive.
Jagow: And over the long term, I know that he’s focusing on the middle class, but beyond that, what is Obama’s long-term vision as we see it at this point?
Dimsdale: He was asked if he still plans to raise taxes on wealthy Americans and he backed away just a bit on that, saying everything’s going to have to be reviewed to see what’s best for the economy. But, otherwise, he essentially repeated his talking points from the campaign today. He resisted calls for immediate specifics to address the financial crisis, saying “You know, I’m not president yet.” There’s tremendous pressure on him to get very specific on what he plans to do to restore some confidence in the economy, but it’s still two-and-a-half months before he has any power. He said that appointments, like treasury secretary, will be made in the coming weeks. He said he’s working with deliberate haste, but he stressed that it will be deliberate.
Jagow: John Dimsdale in Washington. Thank you.
Dimsdale: Thank you Scott.
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