- The Washington Times - Friday, February 6, 2009

President Obama on Friday said the worst job losses are still to come as the economy also gets worse, not better, and said that’s why Congress must act immediately to pass an economic recovery package.

“Although we had a terrible year with respect to jobs last year, the problem is accelerating, not decelerating. It’s getting worse, not getting better,” Mr. Obama said as he announced a new economic advisory group of business and union leaders and economists at the White House.

The nearly 600,000 jobs lost in January, reported Friday morning, is the most in decades. Mr. Obama sought to use the increasingly gloomy numbers as a reason for Congress to end its debate and pass an economic stimulus spending bill.

He defended the bills Democrats passed in the House and are moving to pass in the Senate, saying while they need improvement, they are “broadly speaking … the right size, the right scope and it has the right balance.”

See related story:Jobs plunge nearly 600,000 in January

But Rep. Eric Cantor, Virginia Republican, blamed the slow pace of legislation action on Democrats, who he said loaded up the bill with bad policies that Republicans want to strip out.

“Irrespective of this ‘advisory board,’ Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader Reid, and Chairman Obey don’t appear to understand the difference between classic pork-barrel spending and sound policies that actually create jobs,” Mr. Cantor said, naming top Democratic leaders who wrote the House and Senate stimulus spending bills.

In announcing his advisory council Mr. Obama said he was trying to get opinions from outside Washington’s echo chamber, but joked he’s getting economic advice from all corners.

“These days, everybody thinks they’re economists,” he said.

Seeking to dramatically ramp up pressure on Republicans, the White House announced Mr. Obama will hold town halls Monday in Elkhart, Ind., and Tuesday in Ft. Myer, Fla., to press for his recovery package.

In between, Monday night, he will squeeze in his first press conference as president, to be aired in prime time, giving him a direct channel to voters.

Press secretary Robert Gibbs said Elkhart’s unemployment rate jumped from 4.7 percent last year to 15.3 percent now.

“This is another chance for the president to talk directly to the American people about what he thinks is at stake,” Mr. Gibbs said.