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Obama urges parties to work together on economy

world Updated: Jan 03, 2009 11:31 IST
Deborah Charles
Highlight Story

President-elect Barack Obama on Saturday said the struggling US economy could face more challenges and urged lawmakers to act quickly on recovery proposals even as some Republicans expressed concerns about plans for a huge stimulus package.

"As we mark the beginning of a new year, we also know that America faces great and growing challenges -- challenges that threaten our nation's economy and our dreams for the future," Obama said in his weekly radio and Internet address.

"For too many families, this new year brings new unease and uncertainty as bills pile up, debts continue to mount and parents worry that their children won't have the same opportunities they had,"

Obama, who takes office on Jan. 20, said he would meet next week in Washington with Democratic and Republican leaders to discuss his plan aimed at bolstering the U.S. economy and creating 3 million jobs.

"However we got here, the problems we face today are not Democratic problems or Republican problems," he said. "These are America's problems and we must come together as Americans to meet them with the urgency this moment demands."

Obama said economists agreed that if the United States does not act "swiftly and boldly, we could see a much deeper economic downturn that could lead to double-digit unemployment and the American dream slipping further and further out of reach."

GOAL OF 3 MILLION JOBS

He said the country needed an economic recovery and reinvestment plan to create jobs in the short-term and spur economic growth and competitiveness in the long term.

Obama gave few details of the plan, which has yet to be released by his transition team but has been estimated to cost between $675 billion to $775 billion. He said its No. 1 priority was to create 3 million jobs -- more than 80 percent of them in the private sector.

Obama said the recovery plan should include strategic investments that would serve as a "down payment" on America's long-term economic future. In addition, as part of the plan the government must demand strict accountability and oversight and also must ensure the deficit be reduced as the economy recovers.

Democrats, who have a majority in Congress, want the economic stimulus to include tax relief for the middle class and spending on schools, roads and other infrastructure. States, which increasingly are having difficulties paying health-care costs for the poor, also would get federal money.

But Republicans on Capitol Hill have been warning that the economic recovery package should not spend too much on government-funded projects and should not be rushed through Congress without adequate review.

Republicans have said they would not rubber-stamp a huge spending plan.

Democrats had hoped to deliver the plan to Obama when he takes office on Jan. 20, or shortly thereafter.

One element of the plan could be "buy American" language benefiting U.S. industry, an Obama aide said on Friday. Such a plan has been reportedly suggested by the steel industry as a way to help the country through the economic slowdown.