• Double within three years the amount of energy that could be produced from renewable resources, an ambitious goal given the 30 years it took to reach current levels. Advisers say that could power 6 million households.
by: Philip Elliott, The Associated Press
Washington – President Barack Obama on Saturday laid out more pieces of an economic plan he says would add 3,000 miles of electrical lines, increase security at 90 ports and double the United States’ renewable energy capacity within three years.
It was the latest appeal from the new president for a massive spending bill designed to inject almost a trillion dollars into a flailing U.S. economy and to fulfill campaign pledges. As members of Congress consider an $825 billion plan and Obama woos them, his White House released a radio and Internet address directed at voters who want answers.
“Our economy could fall $1 trillion short of its full capacity, which translates into more than $12,000 in lost income for a family of four. And we could lose a generation of potential, as more young Americans are forced to forgo college dreams or the chance to train for the jobs of the future,” Obama said in a five-minute address that the White House released early Saturday.
“In short, if we do not act boldly and swiftly, a bad situation could become dramatically worse.”
Along with the speech, Obama’s economic team released a report designed to outline tangible benefits of the plan and shore up support. Aides said they wanted people to understand exactly what they could expect – more schools, lower electricity bills – if their members of Congress supported the proposed legislation.
The United States lost 2.6 million jobs last year, the most in any single year since World War II. Manufacturing is at a 28-year low and even Obama’s economists say unemployment could top 10 percent before the recession ends. One in 10 homeowners are at risk of foreclosure and the dollar continues its slide in value.
That harsh reality has dominated Obama’s first days in office and prompted a Saturday meeting of his economic team at the White House during their first weekend in power.
A day earlier, he invited Democratic and Republican leaders to the White House to hear their ideas on the economy, yet Obama didn’t share the plan’s specifics while they visited.
Many of the goals in the speech and report were familiar from Obama’s two-year campaign, like shifting to electronic medical records and investing in preventive health care. Other parts added specifics.
Obama’s recovery package aims to:
- Double within three years the amount of energy that could be produced from renewable resources, an ambitious goal given the 30 years it took to reach current levels. Advisers say that could power 6 million households.
- Upgrade 10,000 schools and improve learning for about 5 million students.
- Save $2 billion a year by making federal buildings energy efficient.
- Triple the number of undergraduate and graduate fellowships in science.
The plan would spend at least 75 percent of the total cost – or more than $600 billion – within the first 18 months, providing a massive infusion of cash to the struggling economy, either through bricks-and-shovels projects favored by Democrats or tax cuts that Republicans have pushed. Either could produce progress the administration could point to if it needs to justify a second economic package.
The broad plan puts heavy emphasis on infrastructure that crumbled as state budgets contracted. Governors have lobbied Obama to help them patch holes in their budgets, drained by sinking tax revenues and increased need for public assistance like Medicaid and children’s health insurance. Obama’s plan would increase the federal portion of those programs so no state would have to cut any of the 20 million children whose eligibility is now at risk.
Obama’s plan would also provide health care coverage for 8.5 million Americans who lose their insurance when they either lose or shift jobs.
“It’s a plan that will save or create 3 to 4 million jobs over the next few years” and recognizes “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.
But he cautioned again against expecting instant results: “No one policy or program will solve the challenges we face right now, nor will this crisis recede in a short period of time.”
Weekly Address: Remarks of President Barack Obama
Saturday 24 January 2009
We begin this year and this Administration in the midst of an unprecedented crisis that calls for unprecedented action. Just this week, we saw more people file for unemployment than at any time in the last twenty-six years, and experts agree that if nothing is done, the unemployment rate could reach double digits. Our economy could fall $1 trillion short of its full capacity, which translates into more than $12,000 in lost income for a family of four. And we could lose a generation of potential, as more young Americans are forced to forgo college dreams or the chance to train for the jobs of the future.
In short, if we do not act boldly and swiftly, a bad situation could become dramatically worse.
That is why I have proposed an American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan to immediately jumpstart job creation as well as long-term economic growth. I am pleased to say that both parties in Congress are already hard at work on this plan, and I hope to sign it into law in less than a month.
It’s a plan that will save or create three to four million jobs over the next few years, and one 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. That’s why this is not just a short-term program to boost employment. It’s one that will invest in our most important priorities like energy and education; health care and a new infrastructure that are necessary to keep us strong and competitive in the 21st century.
Today I’d like to talk specifically about the progress we expect to make in each of these areas.
To accelerate the creation of a clean energy economy, we will double our capacity to generate alternative sources of energy like wind, solar, and biofuels over the next three years. We’ll begin to build a new electricity grid that lay down more than 3,000 miles of transmission lines to convey this new energy from coast to coast. We’ll save taxpayers $2 billion a year by making 75% of federal buildings more energy efficient, and save the average working family $350 on their energy bills by weatherizing 2.5 million homes.
To lower health care cost, cut medical errors, and improve care, we’ll computerize the nation’s health record in five years, saving billions of dollars in health care costs and countless lives. And we’ll protect health insurance for more than 8 million Americans who are in danger of losing their coverage during this economic downturn.
To ensure our children can compete and succeed in this new economy, we’ll renovate and modernize 10,000 schools, building state-of-the-art classrooms, libraries, and labs to improve learning for over five million students. We’ll invest more in Pell Grants to make college affordable for seven million more students, provide a $2,500 college tax credit to four million students, and triple the number of fellowships in science to help spur the next generation of innovation.
Finally, we will rebuild and retrofit America to meet the demands of the 21st century. That means repairing and modernizing thousands of miles of America’s roadways and providing new mass transit options for millions of Americans. It means protecting America by securing 90 major ports and creating a better communications network for local law enforcement and public safety officials in the event of an emergency. And it means expanding broadband access to millions of Americans, so business can compete on a level-playing field, wherever they’re located.
I know that some are skeptical about the size and scale of this recovery plan. I understand that skepticism, which is why this recovery plan must and will include unprecedented measures that will allow the American people to hold my Administration accountable for these results. We won’t just throw money at our problems – we’ll invest in what works. Instead of politicians doling out money behind a veil of secrecy, decisions about where we invest will be made public, and informed by independent experts whenever possible. We’ll launch an unprecedented effort to root out waste, inefficiency, and unnecessary spending in our government, and every American will be able to see how and where we spend taxpayer dollars by going to a new website called recovery.gov.