Focusing on the economic crisis in his first press conference, Nov. 7, President-elect Barack Obama emphasized the needs of working families and creating jobs as the number one priority of his new administration.
Flanked by his ‘economic transition team,’ which included his new chief of staff, Illinois Rep. Rahm Emanuel, Vice President-elect Joe Biden, Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, former Michigan Rep. and John Edwards adviser David Bonior, Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and a number of previous White House economic advisors, business leaders and academic economists, Obama identified key immediate proposals to tackle the looming recession.
A rescue package for working families that creates jobs and provides relief, a boost in unemployment insurance benefits, and direct aid to small businesses and state and local governments were among his top priorities.
In addition, Obama said an acceleration of aid to the auto industry to help it retool to build energy efficient and alternative fuel vehicles is vital to both economic growth and promoting energy independence. The auto industry is ‘the backbone of American manufacturing,’ Obama said.
While Obama said he did not want to step on Bush’s toes as he leaves office, the president-elect told reporters that he plans to review the progress of the Bush administration’s financial program to make sure it is helping working families and not simply limited to benefiting banks, CEOs and managers who may have helped cause the meltdown on Wall Street.
Obama also emphasized the need for the federal government to use its existing authority to help homeowners keep their homes and afford their mortgages.
He further identified public investments in education, health care and other social programs as necessary long-term economic stimulus measures.
‘It won’t be quick,’ Obama said. ‘And it isn’t going to be easy to dig ourselves out of the hole we’re in.’ But relying on the confidence and the support of the American people, Obama expressed great optimism that the country would turn things around.
When asked about his role in passing an economic stimulus package as this session of Congress winds down, Obama said, ‘I want to see a stimulus package pass sooner rather than later. If it doesn’t get done in a lame-duck session of Congress, then it will be the first thing I do when I become president.’