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Obama Lays Out Economic Recovery Plan; Republican Leaders Respond « The Washington Independent

In his first policy speech since the election, President-elect Barack Obama laid out his “American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan” to stimulate the economy by pumping money into infrastructure, alternative energy, technology and aid to states.

Speaking at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., he warned of the hard times to come and emphasized the urgent need for decisive action, even as Republican leaders have indicated that they will not agree to a major spending increase without careful deliberation.

“For every day we wait or point fingers or drag our feet, more Americans will lose their jobs,” Obama said. “More families will lose their savings. More dreams will be deferred and denied. And our nation will sink deeper into a crisis that, at some point, we may not be able to reverse.”

He also warned that his plan, which is expected to cost upward of $750 billion, will increase the $1.2 trillion deficit the country is already facing.

“There is no doubt that the cost of this plan will be considerable,” he said. “It will certainly add to the budget deficit in the short-term. But equally certain are the consequences of doing too little or nothing at all, for that will lead to an even greater deficit of jobs, incomes, and confidence in our economy.”

In a possible indication that he will seek to change the dialogue on the role of government, Obama dismissed the virtues of small government and pressed the need for strong and steady intervention in the economy.

“Only government can provide the short-term boost necessary to lift us from a recession this deep and severe,” he said. “Only government can break the vicious cycles that are crippling our economy –- where a lack of spending leads to lost jobs which leads to even less spending; where an inability to lend and borrow stops growth and leads to even less credit.”

He also channeled President John F. Kennedy, albeit a bit less eloquently, insisting “that the first question each of us asks isn’t ‘What’s good for me?’ but ‘What’s good for the country my children will inherit?’”

Congress will soon begin hammering out the details of the recovery plan, which Obama hopes to sign into law within weeks of taking office Jan. 20.

UPDATE 12:10 PM: House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) just responded to Obama’s speech. They were generally supportive, although they expressed some reservations about the details of the plan. Boehner insisted on “striking the right balance” between economic stimulus and fiscal restraint, while McConnell maintained that aid to states should be in the form of loans, not grants. McConnell said that at least two states don’t need any aid, and “it hardly makes sense to give money to states that don’t need it.”

Clearly, the Republicans find themselves in a tough spot. Obstructing the passage of a stimulus plan in a time of dire economic need would make them easy scapegoats for the country’s struggles. But they need to gain bargaining power in negotiating the details of the plan so that they can turn it to their ideological favor. It’ll be interesting to see how they pick their battles in the weeks to come.

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