CHICAGO, November 27 – President-elect Barack Obama promised Wednesday that "help is on the way" for those affected by the nation\’s economic woes as he announced the creation of an economic recovery advisory board.
Heading into the Thanksgiving shopping weekend, which retailers fear could prove a bust as customers tighten their belts, Obama said concerns about the financial future were understandable.
"I think it is important for the American people, though, to have confidence that we\’ve gone through recessions before, we\’ve gone through difficult times before, that my administration intends to get this economy back on track," he told his third press conference in as many days focused on his economic plans.
"So people should understand that help is on the way," Obama said as he outlined an aggressive stimulus package he planned to launch as soon as he takes office on January 20.
Obama touted his plan to create 2.5 million jobs over the next two years through a vast infrastructure spending program, and said "our future is bright if we make good decisions."
While he warned against getting caught up in a "downward spiral," Obama did not urge people to flood stores as a means of kick starting the economy.
"What we want to do is to be sober, to be clear, to recognize that we\’ve got some real adjustments that have to be made. That\’s true in individual businesses, it\’s true in terms of individual family budgets, it\’s also true for the economy as a whole."
Obama expressed "frustration with the incapacity of Washington to take bold, clear, decisive steps to deal with our economic problems" but called the Federal Reserve\’s move to inject another 800 billion dollars into the economy to stabilize the US financial system "a positive sign."
A series of grim economic reports Wednesday suggested the US economy is sinking fast into recession as consumer spending recorded its steepest fall since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and new claims for unemployment benefits rose to a fresh 16-year weekly high of 529,000.
Obama told ABC\’s Barbara Walters in an interview broadcast late Wednesday that "there are a lot of things that keep me up at night" but his main concern is what will happen to the economy before he is handed "the reins of power."
"The economy is so weakened that the next 60 days are going to be difficult because we\’ve got a president who, even though he may mean well, is now sort of in lame-duck status (and) Congress isn\’t in (session)," Obama said in the interview.
He warned that it would take time for troubled economy to revive.
"We\’re not going to get out of the hole we\’re in overnight. It\’s going to take some time, it\’s going to take some effort," he said in the interview.
Obama also defended his choice of Clinton-era officials to head his economic team, telling reporters that his administration\’s vision for change would come "from me."
The Democrat dodged a question about further cabinet picks as reports said he would retain Robert Gates as defense secretary and nominate Hillary Clinton for secretary of state.
But after some grumbling from liberal supporters about his cabinet selections so far, Obama said it was inevitable that he would tap high-ranking officials drawn from the last Democratic administration of Bill Clinton.
Obama said the US public would be rightly "troubled" if he had chosen a Treasury secretary or chief economic adviser who had no government experience at "one of the most critical economic times in our history."
"What we\’re going to do is combine experience with fresh thinking," he said, stressing his new team had the background of government service to "hit the ground running."
Obama added: "Understand where the vision of change comes from first and foremost. It comes from me. That is my job, to provide a vision in terms of where we\’re going and make sure that my team is implementing it."
Obama has named two Clinton-era officials to head his economic team — Timothy Geithner as Treasury secretary and Larry Summers as chairman of the White House\’s National Economic Council.
On Wednesday Obama appointed former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker, who helped steer the country out of high inflation in the 1980s, to lead the newly created "President\’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board."