Barack Obama held his first press conference today as President-elect following his initial meeting with key economic advisors.
The government reported today that the economy shed 240,000 jobs in October. And this new unemployment number, coupled with the fact that tens of millions of people are struggling to stay in their homes, underscores the urgency of the economic crisis, Obama said.
He said he would take the crisis head on immediately after becoming President in January and that was the point of the meeting with his economic advisors in Chicago. The meeting included Vice President-elect Joe Biden; investor Warren Buffett; William Donaldson, a Republican who headed the Securities and Exchange Commission during President Bush’s first term; Robert Reich, Labor secretary for President Clinton; Richard Parsons of Time-Warner; Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google; and Lawrence Summers, former president of Harvard.
Priorities include a fiscal stimulus plan that is long overdue, he said. Obama said he would work to extend unemployment insurance for a longer period of time. He said a global response is required for the worldwide economic crisis. He said he viewed help for the struggling auto industry as crucial to a recovery.
Obama pledged to work closely with the Treasury Department to ensure that the $700 billion authorized to bail out the banking system is used as Congress intended. He said his transition team would work on healthcare, tax reform, relief for middle-income families, alternative energy, and other issues in the weeks ahead.
“It’s not going to be easy to dig us out of the hole we are in, but America is a resilient country,” he said. “One thing I can say with certainty is that we are going to need a stimulus package passed, either before or after the inauguration.” Although he added that it should be passed sooner rather than later.
If it doesn’t happen in a lame-duck session now, he said, then it will be the first thing he does when he takes office. When he meets with President Bush on Monday, he said, he will do so in the spirit of bipartisanship in hopes of getting quick action.
The unemployment rate has hit 6.5 percent in October, the worst monthly rate since 1994. In the past year, about 1.3 million jobs have disappeared in the U.S. Thousands more are at stake at the automakers. General Motors warned today that it could run out of cash by the first half of 2009.
Despite the bad news, the stock market rose on Friday. The Dow Jones was up more than 238 points to 8942 as of 11:50 am Pacific time.