- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 3, 2009

President-elect Barack Obama on Saturday said the nation finds itself at one of its “moments of trial” because of the economy and called for Congress to pass a massive public spending bill to create jobs, saying that will pull the country out of the slump.

“We need an American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan that not only creates jobs in the short-term but spurs economic growth and competitiveness in the long-term,” Mr. Obama said in his weekly radio address.

Democrats, both in Congress and in governor’s mansions around the country, have floated proposals for massive public works projects, potentially topping $1 trillion in spending.

But Mr. Obama warned his spending program would not be part of “the old Washington habit of throwing money at the problem.” The president-elect said there will be “vigorous oversight” of the spending and accountability for the projects.

Mr. Obama has a meeting scheduled Monday with congressional leaders from both parties, but Republicans are calling for a careful approach.

“Every dollar needs to be spent wisely and not wasted in the rush to get it spent,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican. He said they want to see Mr. Obama live up to his earlier pledge to scour the federal budget for places where programs can be cut.

While saying controls need to be part of the new bill, Mr. Obama said the real cost-cutting will have to come later, after the economy is back on track.

Mr. Obama did not mention President Bush by name, but gave a sobering assessment of Mr. Bush’s last year in office: “Nearly two million Americans have lost their jobs this past year — and millions more are working harder in jobs that pay less and come with fewer benefits.”

Mr. Obama, Mr. Bush and former Presidents Bush, Clinton and Carter will meet at the White House Wednesday to talk about major issues facing the country.

In his own radio address Mr. Bush talked about Israel and its military action against Gaza. The president put the onus entirely on Hamas, the Palestinian faction that controls Gaza, including blaming Hamas fighters for hiding “within the civilian population, which puts innocent Palestinians at risk.”

Mr. Bush said while a cease-fire is needed, it won’t come until Hamas agrees to stop firing rockets into Israel and until there is a way to make sure weapons aren’t being smuggled into Gaza.

The White House released the text of Mr. Bush’s radio address Friday.

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