Obama's dire economic warning

January 8, 2009 2:35:29 PM PST
President-elect Barack Obama warned of dire and lasting consequences if Congress doesn't pump unprecedented dollars into the national economy, making an urgent pitch Thursday for his mammoth spending proposal in his first speech since his election. "In short, a bad situation could become dramatically worse" if Washington doesn't go far enough to address the spreading crisis, Obama said as fresh economic reports showed an outlook growing increasingly grim.

Since his November election, he has deferred to President George W. Bush on foreign policy matters such as the Middle East. But, with the urgency of the economic crisis, Obama has waded deeply into domestic issues as he works to generate support for his plan to create jobs, jolt the economy and make long-term investments in other areas.

In the speech at George Mason University outside of Washington, Obama cast blame on "an era of profound irresponsibility that stretched from corporate boardrooms to the halls of power in Washington."

But he added, "The very fact that this crisis is largely of our own making means that it is not beyond our ability to solve. Our problems are rooted in past mistakes, not our capacity for future greatness."

Obama laid out goals of doubling the production of alternative energy over three years, updating most federal buildings to improve energy efficiency, making medical records electronic, expanding broadband networks and updating schools and universities.

Still, his remarks shed little new light on the details of his plan that could cost as much as $775 billion over two years in tax cuts and spending intended to jolt the economy and create new jobs.

The speech marked Obama's highest-profile effort yet on an issue certain to define and dominate his early presidency.

"I don't believe it's too late to change course, but it will be if we don't take dramatic action as soon as possible," he said.

Governors of six states and mayors of 14 cities - a bipartisan audience that came from as far away as Minnesota and Utah to be among the few hundred in attendance - listened to the speech that lasted less than a half hour. Included were Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City.

Obama asked Congress to work day, night and on weekends if necessary to pass a revival plan within the next few weeks so that it can be ready for his signature shortly after he takes office on Jan. 20.