Yes, a new US stimulus package will be very expensive. Yes, the
federal budget is already burdened with record debt. But only
Washington has the resources to do what needs to be done, and the
risks of inaction, or too little action, are far greater than those
of spending too much.
In sum, that's President-elect Obama's message to the nation, as
he tries to prepare the ground for quick congressional action on his
proposal for a massive new economic stimulus program.
In many ways, Mr. Obama's push is unprecedented. He hasn't yet
made a single phone call from the Oval Office. But he's hard at work
trying to build voters' trust, not just in his administration but in
the capabilities of government itself.
"The American people are deeply ambivalent at this moment," says
William Galston, a senior fellow in governance at the Brookings
Institution in Washington.
"On the one hand, they broadly support the new administration and
want it to succeed. On the other hand, there is deep skepticism
about the ability of government to do the right thing and to do it
Obama on Thursday capped a week-long push for his economic
approach with a speech that made his most detailed case yet for the
forthcoming financial rescue package.
He warned that the economy could further deteriorate, plunging
the nation into dire times, absent quick action by Washington on a
huge stimulus package.
"Only government can break the vicious cycles that are crippling
our economy - where a lack of spending leads to lost jobs, which
leads to even less spending," said Obama.
His stimulus package is still evolving but is expected to total
$800 billion or more. It will be a conglomeration of tax breaks,
infrastructure projects, aid to state and local governments, and
other initiatives, according to transition officials and
Energy will be front and center
Among the specific goals it will attempt to encourage, Obama said
Thursday, are a doubling of domestic alternative-energy production
over the next three years, an improvement in energy efficiency for 2
million American homes, the computerization of US medical records
within five years, and the expansion of broadband Internet access
across the nation.
"Yes, we'll put people to work repairing crumbling roads,
bridges, and schools by eliminating the backlog of well-planned,
worthy, and needed infrastructure projects. But we'll also do more
to retrofit America for a global economy," he said.
Transition officials had hoped Congress could have a bill ready
for Obama to sign upon his accession to the presidency on Jan. 20,
but that timeline has slipped to mid-February at the earliest.
Many economists support the idea of a new US government stimulus
effort to pull the economy out of the current slump. …