President-elect Barack Obama visited a factory Friday afternoon in economically strapped Ohio to make a pitch for the energy element of his proposed stimulus plan as he prepared for an inaugural celebration weekend spanning several states.
“The way I see it, the first job of my administration is to put people back to work and get our economy working again,” Mr. Obama, a Democrat, told employees of the Cardinal Fastener & Specialty Company in Bedford.
Mr. Obama made his remarks after touring the plant, which manufactures parts used in wind turbines.
He said “dramatic” action is needed in nudging Congress to move on the $825 billion package House Democrats announced Thursday. Mr. Obama had called for a $775 billion plan that included $300 billion in tax cuts, but House Democrats reduced the tax cuts by $25 billion and added another $75 billion in spending.
Mr. Obama said the package would fulfill his promise of creating or preserving more than 3 million jobs. But Republicans calculated that would equal as much as $275,000 per job.
“Oh my God,” said House Minority Leader John A. Boehner of Ohio this week, reacting to the size of the plan.
And Rep. Jerry Lewis of California, the top Republican on the House Appropriations Committee, sent out a memo questioning how much bang for the buck would come from items such as $50 million for the National Endowment for the Arts, $400 million for “habitat restoration” for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and $15.6 billion to increase college tuition assistance in the form of Pell grants.
Mr. Obama repeatedly has said the plan must be on his desk by the Presidents Day holiday in mid-February, and his team is working with Capitol Hill leaders to generate more support.
At the Ohio plant Friday, he said energy efficiency is a key element of his plan and that he believes American innovation in this field will create jobs and spark economic recovery.
Mr. Obama said he aims to double the production of renewable energy over three years and modernize three-quarters of the federal buildings and improve energy efficiency in more than 2 million homes.
He wants to put people to work building wind turbines and solar panels and more fuel-efficient cars.
“If anyone doubts that we can dig ourselves out of this hole, I invite them to come here to Ohio and look what you’ve done at Cardinal Fastener,” he said. “I know it hasn’t been easy - and it hasn’t been without risk. But you’ve set your sights on the future, and you haven’t looked back. In an economy that’s losing jobs, you’re creating them. And they’re the kind of jobs that don’t just support families and sustain communities - but also help transform our economy, spurring growth - not just today but for decades to come.”
He outlined the record number of job losses, saying the need for action “has never been more urgent” and noted that the jobs in his plan will be more than just jobs.
“We’re looking to create good jobs that pay well and won’t be shipped overseas. Jobs that don’t just put people to work in the short term, but position our economy to be on the cutting edge in the long term,” he said.
Mr. Obama said many companies have transformed from old economies to become “clean energy” producers.
He said Spain, Germany and Japan are surging ahead of the United States because their governments have invested in renewable energy.
“There is no reason we can’t do the same thing right here in America,” he said.
Mr. Obama also touted the other elements of his plan: bringing broadband to rural areas, modernizing health care, expanding technology in the classroom and rebuilding roads and bridges and school facilities.
He noted that his administration will offer extensions of unemployment insurance, and health-care coverage and tax cuts for most families.
Sen. Sherrod Brown, Ohio Democrat, lauded the visit by saying his state “can become the Silicon Valley of alternative energy.”
Before the speech, Mr. Obama donned safety goggles for a 20-minute factory tour with company President John Grabner.
“You guys are doing a great job,” he told the workers.