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Obama calls for aggressive stimulus

From NBC's Athena Jones
CHICAGO -- President-elect Obama stressed the need to "act swiftly and boldly" to prevent millions of job losses next year and said his economic team, which he announced today, was at work on an "aggressive economic recovery" plan that he hoped could be enacted soon after he takes office.

"Beyond any immediate actions we may take, we need a recovery plan for both Wall Street and Main Street, a plan that stabilizes our financial system and gets credit flowing again, while at the same time addressing our growing foreclosure crisis, helping our struggling auto industry, and creating and saving 2.5 million jobs, jobs rebuilding our infrastructure, our roads, our bridges, modernizing our schools, and creating the clean energy infrastructure of the 21st century," Obama said. "I've asked my economic team to develop recommendations for this plan and to consult with Congress, the current administration, and the Federal Reserve on immediate economic developments over the next two months."

Video: President-elect Barack Obama unveils his economic team and vows to use a massive stimulus program to get the economy back on track. NBC's Savannah Guthrie reports.

The economic team will brief Obama daily, and he plans to provide an overview of their initial recommendations to the broader public and to the new Congress in the hopes that legislators can begin work on a recovery plan in early January so that his administration can "hit the ground running."

The president-elect promised to honor the public commitments the Bush administration has made in dealing with what he called a financial crisis of historic proportions, said the current administration must use the authority it has "forcefully" in the coming weeks to stabilize the current situation and added that economic recovery would also require the government to make spending cuts and sacrifices, a subject he plans to speak more about at a press conference here tomorrow.

In a departure from a promise he made frequently on the campaign trail, Obama would not say today whether he still planned to repeal the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy or would instead simply allow them to expire in 2010. During the campaign, then-rival John McCain cast the plan to end the tax cuts as a tax increase that would stifle a recovery.
 
Obama made the comments during a press conference -- his second since the election -- at which he announced four members of his economic team. Saying he had sought leaders who could offer both experience and new ideas, he said New York Federal Reserve President Timothy Geithner would be his pick for Treasury secretary, named Lawrence Summers, a former Treasury secretary in the Clinton administration, as the director of the National Economic Council, Christina Romer, as chair of the Council of Economic Advisors and Melody Barnes to be director of the Domestic Policy Council.

Geithner has been working with current Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson to manage the Wall Street bailout and Paulson released a statement praising him.

"I have the highest regard for Tim -- his judgment and creativity have been critical to designing and implementing the necessary actions we've taken to protect and strengthen our financial system," Paulson's statement read. "I have great confidence in his understanding of markets, his judgment and leadership, and his ability to meet the challenges that lie ahead."

As he did frequently during the final weeks of the campaign and upon being elected, Obama said solving the crisis would not be easy, a warning to the American people about the tough times ahead and a way of buying some time to fix them.

"There are no shortcuts or quick fixes to this crisis, which has been many years in the making, and the economy is likely to get worse before it gets better," he said. "Full recovery will not happen immediately."

Obama said his economic plan would also serve as a "down payment" on longer-term strategies he spoke about often during the campaign, from investing in clean energy to reforming the health care system and improving education, but he declined to offer specifics on the size of the stimulus plan he would put forward, saying that would be something he would decide along with his economic team, along with how to handle the Bush tax cuts for the rich.

"I think the most important thing to recognize is that we have a consensus, which is pretty rare, between conservative economists and liberal economists, that we need a big stimulus package that will jolt the economy back into shape and that is focused on the 2.5 million jobs that I intend to create during the first part of my administration," he said. "We have to put people back to work. Now, that runs in parallel with making sure that our financial system is stable. And so we're going to have to do more than one thing at a time. But across the board, people believe that this stimulus is critical."

While believes the auto industry must not "vanish" because so many American jobs depend on it, Obama said he was surprised that auto executives had not presented a stronger proposal when they appeared before Congress to request federal help and that lawmakers had done the right thing by telling auto executives to come back with a plan for sustainability.

"My attitude is that we should help the auto industry, but what we should expect is that any additional money that we put into the auto industry, any help that we provide is designed to assure a long-term sustainable auto industry and not just kicking the can down the road," he said.