President-elect Barack Obama tried to win public support Thursday for a massive economic recovery plan, warning that the U.S. could be in a recession for years if Congress doesn't act quickly.
Speaking to a group at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., Obama said his proposal combines the country's short-term need for jobs and greater efficiency with a long-term plan for improvements in energy, health care, education and infrastructure.
"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's so much work to be done," he said.
Obama said his proposal — which includes tax cuts for individuals and some businesses — would create or save about 3 million jobs. It's expected to cost as much as $775 billion over two years, although the ultimate price tag is not known.
Obama told the group Thursday that his plan includes proposals on:
Energy: Doubling the production of alternative energy in the next three years; modernizing more than 75 percent of the country's federal buildings; and improving energy efficiency in 2 million homes. He said these initiatives would save consumers and taxpayers billions of dollars and create job opportunities for building solar panels, wind turbines, and fuel efficient cars and buildings.
Health care: Computerizing all of the country's medical records. Obama said this would save money and jobs and reduce medical errors that cost lives.
Education: Equipping classrooms with state-of-the-art laboratories, libraries and computers. He also said his plan calls for additional training for teachers.
Infrastructure projects: Repairing roads, bridges and schools; updating the electricity grid; and expanding broadband access across the country.
In addition, Obama said he would make good on a campaign promise to give working families a $1,000 tax cut in an effort to encourage spending and get the economy moving. And he said he would continue the extension of unemployment insurance and health care coverage to help Americans who have lost their jobs during the economic downturn.
He warned that the U.S. could see double-digit unemployment, falling wages and a decrease in college enrollment if Congress doesn't have legislation ready for his signature soon after he is sworn in on Jan. 20. Some in Congress expressed concern about the plan because of its impact on the growing budget deficit — which is forecast to hit $1.2 trillion this year.
"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," Obama said.
Obama acknowledged that the stimulus plan would add to the budget deficit in the short term. However, he said that not pumping enough money into the economy would lead to a greater loss of jobs and personal income.
"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," he said.