Obama Proposes Economic Stimulus Package
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
It's Morning Edition from NPR News. Renee Montagne is away. I'm Steve Inskeep. Today President-elect Barack Obama is expected to announce several major additions to his administration. That includes the economic transition team that will have to deal with the economic crisis. And the incoming president also announced over the weekend that he intends to roll out a major economic stimulus proposal. We've got more details this morning from NPR's Scott Horsley who's in Chicago. Scott, good morning.
SCOTT HORSLEY: Good to be with you, Steve.
INSKEEP: So, which jobs are involved in this announcement today?
HORSLEY: The big job that people have been watching for is the Treasury secretary. And news leaked out Friday that Tim Geithner, who is the president of the New York Federal Reserve, will be the first official member of the incoming administration's Cabinet. Tim Geithner is someone who's been called the Fed's fireman for his experience in dealing with crises. And the message that the president-elect is trying to send here is that when economic alarm bells are going off, as they have been, that someone is listening.
Now, when news of Tim Geithner's appointment leaked out, the stock market responded very favorably. Shares regained some of the ground that they had lost in the massive selloff earlier last week. I think that's partly a vote of confidence in Tim Geithner. It's also, I think, a vote of confidence that just someone will be on the job. The fact that the Treasury secretary is the first Cabinet post to be officially filled indicates just how important that role will be.
And as you mentioned, Mr. Obama is not just naming the Treasury secretary, but a whole economic team. He wants to show that he's got some of the best minds working on ways to fix the problems we find ourselves in. Another of his advisers, Austan Goolsbee, put it on CBS yesterday that Barack Obama wants to show he's ready to come in with a bang.
INSKEEP: And of course he also wants to give that economic team some tools to work with in addition to the later parts of this 700 billion fiscal rescue plan that we've heard so much about. The president-elect is talking about an economic stimulus plan. What would that be?
HORSLEY: That's right. He began to sketch the outlines of the package on Saturday in his now weekly radio address. And his advisers talked it up some more yesterday when they made the rounds of the Sunday talk shows. It's still really just a sketch. We don't know how big a stimulus package we're talking about. But we know that the president-elect wants it to be big. Big enough, he said, for the challenges that we face. And some Democrats on Capitol Hill have been talking in the half-trillion-dollar-plus range. Barack Obama is also talking about acting quickly. He wants lawmakers to go right to work on this, so that he could sign it soon after taking office in January.
Now, some of the pieces of the plan are things that candidate Obama talked about on the campaign trail. Federal spending on roads and bridges to repair and expand the nation's infrastructure. He's talking about investments in alternative energy to reduce our dependence on imported oil. So the stimulus he's talking about is consistent with the kinds of priorities he mentioned on the campaign trail. But now the President-elect Obama has this extra measure of urgency to say this government spending is a way to prevent more job losses and actually create new jobs - to save or create two and a half million jobs, he says, over the next two years.
INSKEEP: We're talking with NPR's Scott Horsley on a day when President-elect Obama is expected to announce his economic team. And Scott, I wonder if the grim financial news of the last several days has forced the president-elect to take a higher profile, maybe even move more quickly than he'd like to.
HORSLEY: I think so, Steve. You know, we've been, since the election, in this sort of awkward interregnum period where people are looking to the president-elect for leadership, but he doesn't have any real authority. And for a couple of weeks, Barack Obama has kept a low profile. He deliberately skipped the G-20 summit meeting in Washington saying, you know, we just have one president at a time. I think he was happy to skip that, in any event. But since the election, we've seen the stock market fall further. We've seen unemployment climb higher. And it now looks, you know, with eight weeks left to inauguration day, like that's a really long ways off.
And so there was a danger for Barack Obama of looking unresponsive, of staying too much on the sidelines, at a time when the public was demanding a more activist approach. The stock market definitely seemed to look kindly upon it on Friday when there were signs of activity from the transition team. Barack Obama is talking about having his team go right to work on this stimulus package. And he concluded his radio address on Saturday by saying, it's time to act. It sounds like he doesn't mean he's going to wait until January 20.
INSKEEP: NPR's Scott Horsley is in Chicago where President-elect Obama will be announcing his economic team today. Scott, thanks very much.
HORSLEY: My pleasure, Steve.
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