Obama: US faces economic ruin if you don’t back me

President-elect makes unprecedented appeal to win support of Congress

Leonard Doyle
Friday 09 January 2009 01:00 GMT

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Barack Obama delivered a stark warning yesterday of the grave dangers of an economic catastrophe if a rescue plan he intends to propose is not swiftly implemented.

He made his appeal despite a constant refrain from his aides that the US can only have one president at a time.

It is rare for a President-elect to intervene so directly before inauguration day and Mr Obama still refuses to involve himself in any meaningful way in the deepening Gaza crisis.

But so alarmed is he about the speed at which the US economy is going into reverse that he decided to go public after consulting with George Bush at the White House the previous day. The president in waiting warned that "this recession could linger for years" if a massive job creation and tax-cutting programme he intends to propose is not quickly adopted by Congress.

"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," Mr Obama declared. "If nothing is done... the unemployment rate could reach double digits." Mr Obama said the economic meltdown had followed "after a period of profound irresponsibility" by Wall Street, ordinary Americans and their political leaders.

It was his fourth and most high profile intervention in four days about the economy. He also sought to address the concerns of sceptical Republicans in Congress, saying his rescue initiative was more than "just a public works programme." It was designed he said to create or save at least three million jobs and that he intended to "spark the creation of a new clean energy economy."

He intends to double the amount of renewable energy being generated, to make 75 per cent of federal buildings energy efficient as well as millions of private homes. Billions of dollars would be saved and jobs created that "cannot be outsourced," he said.

Intended as a wake-up call to the public and politicians, Mr Obama pointed out that the pain of unemployment and bankruptcy, which is already being felt across the US, will probably get worse in the coming year.

Failure to adopt his economic rescue plan swiftly would make "a bad situation dramatically worse" he said and that the country could "lose a generation of potential and promise".

The US unemployment rate is now 7 per cent nationally and is expected to reach 9 per cent or even higher by the end of this year. This week, there was a staggering warning that the federal budget deficit is set to hit $1.2trn this year. That's before Mr Obama's planned $775bn spending and tax cuts.

Mr Obama also warned that America's pre-eminent position in the world would be threatened if the crisis is not dealt with. Failure would mean "more young Americans are forced to forego dreams of college or the chance to train for the jobs of the future," Mr Obama said. "And our nation could lose the competitive edge that has served as a foundation for our strength and standing in the world."

Prominent Republican critics complain that the economic rescue plan is not being scrutinised properly but Mr Obama promised that every detail would be published online.

"I understand that some might be sceptical of this plan," Mr Obama plans to say. "Our government has already spent a good deal of money, but we haven't yet seen that translate into more jobs or higher incomes or renewed confidence."

Only government could "break the vicious cycles that are crippling our economy," he said, and thereby prevent "the catastrophic failure of financial institutions," by getting credit flowing again. Although the Democrats hoped Congress would have legislation ready for Mr Obama by 20 January, the day he is inaugurated, it is not expected to be ready until February.

President-elect meets super hero

Page one of Marvel News had the exclusive yesterday – 'Spidey Meets the President!' The story revealed that one of the world's most recognisable political figures is being teamed up with a super hero. "It's a Brand New Day for the United States of America and Spider-Man's along for the ride!" Marvel Comics said. The story is set in Washington DC on Inauguration Day. It finds one of Spider-Man's oldest foes trying to thwart the swearing-in ceremony. The President-elect collected Spider-Man comics as a child, and Marvels editor-in-chief, Joe Quesada, said they were giving him a "shout-out back" by featuring him in a bonus story. "How great is that? The commander in chief-to-be is actually a nerd in chief," said Mr Quesada. "It was really cool to see that we had a geek in the White House. We're all thrilled with that." The comic goes on sale next week.

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