- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 11, 2009

With Congress moving more slowly than he’d hoped, President-elect Barack Obama upped the ante on his economic recovery package Saturday, saying his plan could save or create up to 4 million jobs - 1 million more than he had projected earlier.

Mr. Obama has sought over the past few days to use poor economic news to boost his case, including pointing to Friday’s report that companies trimmed another 524,000 jobs in December and that the unemployment rate had hit 7.2 percent.

“It’s not too late to change course - but only if we take immediate and dramatic action,” Mr. Obama said in his weekly radio address, released Saturday.

But Democrats’ timetable for passing a bill has already slipped by a month, and Mr. Obama faces rising questions over the specifics of his plan from both Republicans and Democrats.

To counter those doubts, his transition team released a new report arguing that his spending plan would create between 3.3 million and 4.1 million jobs. Just two days earlier, Mr. Obama, in a speech at George Mason, was predicting that a total of 3 million jobs would be effected by a rescue package.

The report was released as Mr. Obama and Democrats in Congress hash out the size and details of the bill, which the president-elect wants to total slightly less than $800 billion but which some Democratic leaders say should near $1 trillion.

The Obama report says that even with a recovery package, unemployment will still be 7 percent at the end of 2010 but would be 8.8 percent without a recovery bill. Mr. Obama earlier in the week had warned of double-digit unemployment, but the report does not appear to back that claim.

The report said direct spending is best for creating jobs, but those jobs would be concentrated in fields such as construction, and the government can’t properly disburse more than a certain amount of money anyway. The report said tax cuts and aid to states would be the best additional course of action since they can be put in place quickly and will create jobs in all sectors of the economy.

As the Bush administration prepares to ask for the remaining $350 billion that was set aside for the financial-sector rescue, Democrats in Congress say they will attach new conditions to the money. They say President Bush and Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. have not followed through on Congress’ intent when lawmakers created the $700 billion rescue fund.

Also on Saturday, Mr. Obama’s team told the Associated Press that his first trip to another country as president will be to Canada - the traditional first stop for newly minted chief executives. He is scheduled to meet with Mexican President Felipe Calderon on Monday - also a tradition.

But even as he takes care of international obligations, Mr. Obama’s attention is focused on the economy at home. There has been remarkable agreement from both Republicans and Democrats on the need for a package.

Republicans, though, argue against spending as much as $500 billion on infrastructure and transfers to states, and Democrats argue that Mr. Obama’s tax cuts are misguided.

Congressional Democrats have blasted his proposed $3,000 tax credit for businesses that retain or hire workers.

Mr. Obama said 10 percent of the jobs created or saved by his plan would be government workers such as teachers, police and firefighters. Mr. Obama said his plan’s aid to states and localities would prevent deep budget cuts that would threaten those workers.

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