As the Senate prepares to vote on the $800 billion stimulus and recovery package, President Obama urged Congress to pass the bill Monday, first at a town hall meeting in Elkhart, Indiana and later at the first news conference of his presidency. He warned that not acting immediately to rescue the economy could lead to a "catastrophe" and emphasized that only the government could bail out the economy at this moment. [includes rush transcript]
AMY GOODMAN: As the Senate prepares to vote on the $800 billion stimulus and recovery package today, President Obama urged Congress to pass the bill Monday, first at a town hall meeting in Elkhart, Indiana and later at the first news conference of his presidency. He warned that not acting immediately to rescue the economy could lead to a “catastrophe” and emphasized only the government could bail out the economy at this moment.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: And if there’s anyone out there who still doesn’t believe this constitutes a full-blown crisis, I suggest speaking to one of the millions of Americans whose lives have been turned upside down because they don’t know where their next paycheck is coming from. That is why the single most important part of this Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Plan is the fact that it will save or create up to four million jobs, because that’s what America needs most right now.
It is absolutely true that we can’t depend on government alone to create jobs or economic growth. That is and must be the role of the private sector. But at this particular moment, with the private sector so weakened by this recession, the federal government is the only entity left with the resources to jolt our economy back into life.
AMY GOODMAN: President Obama’s news conference came just hours after the stimulus bill advanced in the Senate by a vote of 61-to-36. Three Republicans and two Independents joined fifty-six Democrats to move the legislation forward, with a vote on final passage expected later today. The Senate bill differs substantially from its counterpart in the House, and the two versions will have to be reconciled before Obama can sign the legislation into law.
With his stimulus package receiving little Republican support, Obama repeatedly brought up his concerns around partisanship and "ideological" opposition to a federal spending plan.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Some of the criticisms really are with the basic idea that government should intervene at all in this moment of crisis. Now, you have some people, very sincere, who philosophically just think the government has no business interfering in the marketplace. And in fact there are several who’ve suggested that FDR was wrong to intervene back in the New Deal. They’re fighting battles that I thought were resolved a pretty long time ago.[...]
What I’ve been concerned about is some of the language that’s been used suggesting that this is full of pork and this is wasteful government spending, so on and so forth. First of all, when I hear that from folks who presided over a doubling of the national debt, then I just want them to not engage in some revisionist history. I inherited the deficit that we have right now and the economic crisis that we have right now. [...]
The question I think the American people are asking is, do you just want government to do nothing, or do you want it to do something? If you want it to do something, then we can have a conversation. But doing nothing, that’s not an option from my perspective. [...]
Although there are some politicians who are arguing that we don’t need a stimulus, there are very few economists who are making that argument. I mean, you’ve got economists who were advising John McCain, economists who were advisers to George Bush, one and two, all suggesting that we actually needed a serious recovery package. And so, when I hear people just say, “We don’t need to do anything; this is a spending bill, not a stimulus bill,” without acknowledging that, by definition, part of any stimulus package would include spending — that’s the point — then what I get a sense of is that there’s some ideological blockage there that needs to be cleared up.
AMY GOODMAN: Highlights of President Obama’s discussion of the economy at his first news conference last night.