Obama pitches for plan to keep America strong in 21st century

January 24th, 2009 - 9:30 pm ICT by IANS  

Barack ObamaWashington, Jan 24 (IANS) President Barack Obama Saturday said his plan to jump-start the economy would not only boost employment in the short-term but also invest in key priorities to keep America strong and competitive in the 21st century.”This is not just a short-term programme to boost employment,” he said talking about his American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan in his first weekly address since being sworn in Jan 20.

“It’s one that will invest in our most important priorities like energy and education; healthcare and a new infrastructure that are necessary to keep us strong and competitive in the 21st century,” Obama said.

His administration is still trying to sell the plan to the US Congress with lawmakers of both his own Democratic party and opposition Republican party being somewhat sceptical. But Obama said that with both parties in Congress “already hard at work on this plan” he hoped to sign it into law in less than a month.

Obama and Vice President Joe Biden Friday met a bipartisan group of nine congressional leaders at the White House to discuss the $825 billion stimulus package.

“It appears we are on target” to get the package through Congress by the Presidents’ Day weekend, he said there. Presidents’ Day falls Feb 16.

Outlining his key priorities, Obama said: “The plan will update our electric grid by laying more than 3,000 miles of transmission lines; weatherise 2.5 million homes; protect health insurance for more than eight million Americans in danger of losing their coverage; secure 90 major ports; renovate 10,000 schools; and triple the number of science fellowships.

“We begin this year and this administration in the midst of an unprecedented crisis that calls for unprecedented action,” he said, noting more people had filed for unemployment than at any time in the last 26 years.

“Experts agree that if nothing is done, the unemployment rate could reach double digits,” Obama said. “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 forego 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,” Obama said, explaining why he had proposed a recovery and reinvestment plan to immediately jump start job creation as well as long-term economic growth.

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