WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama met with his economic advisers Saturday after he asked Americans to support his economic package as a way to better schools, lower electricity bills and health coverage for millions who lose insurance.
The two-hour session in the Roosevelt Room focused the proposed $825 billion economic stimulus package that Congress is considering. The group also discussed the upcoming federal budget, Obama's first chance to shape the country's spending amid a recession that lost 2.6 million jobs last year, the most in a single year since World War II.
"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 released Saturday morning by radio and the Internet.
"In short, if we do not act boldly and swiftly, a bad situation could become dramatically worse."
It was the latest appeal from the new president for a massive spending bill designed to inject almost $1 trillion into the economy and fulfill campaign pledges. Obama spent much of last week wooing reluctant legislators — many from his own Democratic Party — and weighing whether there's a need for a second economic package, which aides refused to rule out.
That sequel would be designed to assuage Democratic lawmakers who fret that too little of the money is going toward public works projects that would employ their constituents. Others aides are trying to work with Republican leaders to sustain the current bill's bipartisan flavor; the president planned to visit to Capitol Hill on Tuesday to meet privately with GOP lawmakers.
House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio said his party would continue to push for immediate tax cuts — "not slow-moving government spending programs" — in the weekly GOP address.
"We let families, entrepreneurs, small businesses and the self-employed keep more of what they earn to encourage investment and create millions of new private-sector jobs," he said.
Republicans also proposed a tax credit for home purchases, an end of taxation of unemployment benefits and tax incentives for small businesses to invest in new equipment and hire new employees. Boehner was scheduled to make the case for the GOP plan on Sunday morning talk shows; Vice President Joe Biden and Obama economic adviser Larry Summers also planned interviews that morning.
"We cannot borrow and spend our way back to prosperity," Boehner said.
Both parties, though, agree something has to be done.
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 is at risk of foreclosure and the dollar continues its slide in value. On Friday, 1st Centennial Bank of Redlands, Calif., became the third U.S. bank to fail this year.
That harsh reality has dominated Obama's first days in office.
In addition to the president's speech, Obama aides released a report Saturday that outlined exactly what people could expect if Congress supported his proposed economic legislation.
Many of the ideas, such as shifting to electronic medical records and investing in preventive health care, were familiar from Obama's two-year campaign for the presidency. 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. That is 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.
—Tighten security at 90 major ports.
The plan would spend at least 75 percent of the total cost — or more than $600 billion — within the first 18 months, either through bricks-and-shovels projects favored by Democrats or tax cuts that Republicans have pushed.
There is heavy emphasis on public works projects, which have lagged 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 such as 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.
On the Net:
Obama video: www.whitehouse.gov
Obama economics report: http://tinyurl.com/db83d8
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.