Sunday, November 23, 2008

Obama aide promotes job plan, warns automakers

WASHINGTON – After more than two weeks of virtual silence on the economy, President-elect Barack Obama's transition team burst on the scene with new ambition and urgency Sunday, demanding swift passage by Congress of a massive two-year spending and tax-cutting recovery program.

Obama aides called on lawmakers to pass, by the Jan. 20 inauguration, legislation that meets Obama's two-year goal of saving or creating 2.5 million jobs. Democratic congressional leaders said they would get to work when Congress convenes Jan. 6.

Though Obama aides declined to discuss a total cost, it probably would far exceed the $175 billion he proposed during the campaign, but would not immediately seek to raise taxes on the rich. Some economists and lawmakers have argued for a two-year plan as large as $700 billion, equal to the Wall Street bailout Congress approved last month.

With the wounded economy worsening, the Obama team's new assertiveness was a recognition he needed to soothe financial markets with signs of leadership. It also foreshadowed a more hands-on role by Obama to influence congressional action during the final weeks of the transition.

Obama planned to introduce his economic team on Monday, including Timothy Geithner as treasury secretary and Lawrence Summers as head of the National Economic Council. Obama also has settled on New Mexico Gov. bill Richardson as his commerce secretary.

"We don't have time to waste here, " Obama senior adviser David Axelrod said. "We want to hit the ground running on January 20th." Echoing that, the second-ranking House Democrat, Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, said, `We expect to have during the first couple of weeks of January a package for the president's consideration when he takes office."


Added Obama economic adviser Austan Goolsbee: "We're out with the dithering. We're in with a bang."

Obama's team didn't limit itself to the long-term economic recovery.

Axelrod warned automakers, seeking billions in government help to stave off collapse, to devise a plan to retool and restructure by next month. Otherwise, he said, "there is very little taxpayers can do to help them."

Axelrod couldn't resist taking a jab at the Big Three executives, who left Congress empty-handed last week after flying into Washington in corporate jets and pleading for money. "I hope that they will come back to Washington in early December — on commercial flights — with a plan," he said.

The emphasis on the economy began Saturday when Obama outlined the framework of a plan to save or create 2.5 million jobs by the end of 2010. The scope of the recovery package is far more ambitious than what Obama had spelled out during his presidential campaign, when he proposed $175 billion of spending and tax-cutting stimulus. The new one will be significantly larger and would incorporate his campaign ideas for new jobs in environmentally friendly technologies — the "green economy." It also would include his proposals for tax relief for middle- and lower-income workers.

But there were no plans to balance the tax cuts with an immediate tax increase on the wealthy. During the campaign, Obama said he would pay for increased tax relief by raising taxes on people making more than $250,000.

"There won't be any tax increases in the January package," said one Obama aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the details of the Obama package have not been fleshed out.

Obama could delay any tax increase to 2011, when current Bush administration tax cuts expire.

House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio urged Obama to make that explicit. "Why wouldn't we have the president-elect say, `I am not going to raise taxes on any American in my first two years in office?'"

In a sign of where the congressional debate might lead, Boehner called for lowering capital gains and corporate income taxes.

Some economists have endorsed spending up to $600 billion to revive the economy. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and former labor Secretary Robert Reich, a member of Obama's economic advisory board, both suggested $500 billion to $700 billion.

"I don't know what the number is going to be, but it's going to be a big number," Goolsbee said. "It has to be. The point is to, kind of, get people back on track and startle the thing into submission."

While Obama in the weekend Democratic radio address said his plan "will mean 2.5 million more jobs by January of 2011," aides said the figure was a net sum of jobs created and jobs saved that would otherwise disappear without government help.

The adviser who spoke on condition of anonymity said the plan would likely slow down job losses in 2009, but that new jobs probably would not be evident until 2010.

Obama's plan is both an economic and a political blueprint. By not including tax increases, he silences one potential Republican objection to his plan. If successful, the scope of his plan would set the stage for his other legislative goals, including expanded health care, permanent changes in tax rates and a comprehensive overhaul of energy policy.

"This package is designed to be a down payment to get his entire agenda started," the aide said.

Axelrod appeared on "Fox News Sunday" and ABC's "This Week." Schumer was on ABC, Hoyer and Boehner on Fox and Goolsbee was interviewed on "Face the Nation" on CBS. Reich appeared on "Late Edition" on CNN.

Obama transition: http://www.change.gov
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Saturday, November 22, 2008

Obama to name Geithner, Summers to economic posts

NEW YORK – President-elect Barack Obama will announce the leaders of his economic team Monday, naming Timothy Geithner as treasury secretary and Lawrence Summers to direct the National Economic Council, transition officials said.

If confirmed by the Senate, Geithner, 47, president of the New York Federal Reserve, would be the top Cabinet official in charge of leading the administration's response to the global economic crisis. Word of his likely selection Friday helped send the Dow Jones Industrials soaring 500 points after several days of steep losses.

One top Democrat said John Podesta, a leader of Obama's transition team, had told Senate aides on Friday that Obama hoped for speedy confirmation so the new administration could get to work quickly thereafter.

Geithner (pronounced GITE-ner) served as a Treasury Department official during the Clinton administration, where he played a major role in negotiating assistance packages for South Korea and Brazil.

Summers, 53, a former treasury secretary under President Bill Clinton and one-time president of Harvard University, will advise Obama from the White House. Officials said he would coordinate the federal response to the economic meltdown across several agencies, including a plan Obama announced Saturday to create or save 2.5 million jobs by rebuilding infrastructure and modernizing schools while developing alternative energy sources and more efficient cars.

During the Clinton administration, Summers helped craft the U.S. support program for Mexico during its 1995 financial crisis. He later helped lead the U.S. response to the Asian financial crisis of 1997.

Geithner and Summers were scheduled to appear with Obama at a press conference in Chicago Monday morning.

The announcement comes as Obama moves quickly to fill slots for his incoming administration. On Saturday, he named longtime spokesman Robert Gibbs as White House press secretary.

Ellen Moran will be director of communications in charge of getting Obama's message out. Her deputy in the White House will be Dan Pfeiffer, the communications director for Obama's presidential transition team.

In other positions, Obama is virtually certain to offer Congressional Budget Office chief Peter Orszag the job of directing the White House Office of Budget and Management, and Orszag is likely to accept, Democratic officials said Saturday.

New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton also is in line to become secretary of state, while Obama's choice for attorney general is Eric Holder. He held the No. 2 slot in the Justice Department in President Bill Clinton's administration.

Officials said New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson had emerged as a likely pick as commerce secretary, although he had hoped to be secretary of state. Like Clinton, he was a rival of Obama's for the Democratic presidential nomination last winter. He dropped out after the early contests, though, and soon threw his support behind the eventual winner. The officials spoke only on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the anticipated appointments.

The president-elect has largely stayed out of public view since his election on Nov. 4, preferring to work quietly with aides and Vice President-elect Joe Biden in a suite of offices in downtown Chicago.

Obama faces unusual challenges and has moved quickly in assembling his team. Former President George H.W. Bush made his first Cabinet pick the day after his election in 1988, but former President Clinton did not name any members until after Thanksgiving. President George W. Bush's transition was delayed by the contested result in Florida.

While speculation has been rampant about most top-level appointments, there has been relatively little about Obama's choice for defense secretary. His aides encouraged speculation before the election that Robert Gates, who now holds the position, would remain in office for an interim period.

Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota has been chosen as secretary of health and human services and Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano is likely to be named as secretary of the Homeland Security Department.

Napolitano was an early supporter of candidate Obama among the ranks of Democratic governors, as was Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas. Sebelius has figured prominently in recent days in speculation as possible secretary of labor.

Additionally, retired Gen. James Jones, a former Marine Corps commandant and NATO commander, was among those under consideration for national security adviser. James Steinberg, an Obama campaign aide who served in Clinton's White House, was another possibility, according to officials.

Obama has repeatedly referred to the economic crisis as the top priority for his new administration.

Geithner held posts in the Treasury Department under three administrations and five secretaries before moving to the New York Fed in 2003. He also held positions at the International Monetary Fund and was employed at the private firm of former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.

Associated Press writers Andrew Taylor and David Espo contributed to this report.
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Monday, November 17, 2008

'Meh': Apathetic expression enters dictionary

Are you a Simpson's Fan?


LONDON – At least someone is excited about "meh."

The expression of indifference or boredom has gained a place in the Collins English Dictionary after generating a surprising amount of enthusiasm among lexicographers.

Publisher HarperCollins announced Monday the word had been chosen from terms suggested by the public for inclusion in the dictionary's 30th anniversary edition, to be published next year.

The origins of "meh" are murky, but the term grew in popularity after being used in a 2001 episode of "The Simpsons" in which Homer suggests a day trip to his children Bart and Lisa.

"They both just reply 'meh' and keep watching TV," said Cormac McKeown, head of content at Collins Dictionaries.

The dictionary defines "meh" as an expression of indifference or boredom, or an adjective meaning mediocre or boring. Examples given by the dictionary include "the Canadian election was so meh."

The dictionary's compilers said the word originated in North America, spread through the Internet and was now entering British spoken English.

"This is a new interjection from the U.S. that seems to have inveigled its way into common speech over here," McKeown said. "Internet forums and e-mail are playing a big part in formalizing the spellings of vocal interjections like these. A couple of other examples would be 'hmm' and 'heh.'

"Meh" was selected by Collins after it asked people to submit words they use in conversation that are not in the dictionary. Other suggestions included jargonaut, a fan of jargon; frenemy, an enemy disguised as a friend; and huggles, a hybrid of hugs and snuggles.

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Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Obama Marks History

He is not the first youngest American President. There is John F. Kennedy. But he is the first US black President.

Borne of a Kenyan father, and an American mother, Obama grew up under the stewardship of his grandmother to whom he was grateful to in his victory speech. His credo "Change has come to America" has become a reality when he was elected yesterday with his running mate Joe Biden as the President and Vice-President. There has been forecast by the BBC that Sarah Palin is going to win, and they predicted it to be against the interest of America because having a Democrat as President and a Republican who is criticizing obama heavily will make up a divided America. But American voters are really intellligent.

The repercussion of this electoral result to the world is heavy. Obama winning means an entirely different policies on economy and international security. With the global financial crisis on its worst scenario, America is pervasively affecting every country in the world. Last night, it was reported that the Philippine furniture business is experiencing a downturn because American importers can no longer pay for furniture imports. Many furniture business in the country are closing as a result. Another point of contention would be the US policy in Iraq War. Obama is a supporter of withdrawal of US forces from the Gulf.

In Obama's words, he says that the challenge American is facing now is greater than the challenge of the recently concluded elections. God bless America.
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