Saturday, November 8, 2008

Obama: U.S. 'must act swiftly' to resolve economic crisis

Obama: U.S. 'must act swiftly' to resolve economic crisis U.S. President-elect Barack Obama addresses the media on Friday in Chicago during his first news conference since his election victory.(Jason Reed/Reuters)

The United States is facing the "greatest economic challenge of our lifetime," president-elect Barack Obama said Friday, also assuring Americans that he would confront the economic crisis "head-on" immediately after taking office.

"We're going to have to act swiftly to resolve it," Obama, flanked by his new chief of staff and some of the nation's top business leaders, regulators and economists who comprise his transition team of advisers, told reporters in Chicago.

It was Obama's first news conference since winning Tuesday's election and came immediately after he met with his 17-member economic transition board to discuss the global financial turmoil.

'The American people need help.'—Barack Obama, U.S. president-elect

The president-elect said he has asked his transition team specifically to work on some ideas to help the struggling auto industry, as well as a "rescue plan" for the middle class to create jobs and provide relief for "families that are watching their paycheques shrink and their life savings disappear."

He said it was an "urgent priority" to extend unemployment benefits, and called for another "long overdue" stimulus package to be passed before or after his inauguration.

"The American people need help," he said.

Obama also pledged to work closely with outgoing President George W. Bush and said he planned to meet with him on Monday at the White House. But he also emphasized that the country "has only one government and one president at a time."

"Now's a good time for us to set politics aside for a while and think practically about what will actually work," he said. "It is in that spirit that I will have the conversation with the president.

"I'm confident a new president can have an enormous impact," he added.

When asked about a letter of congratulations from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Obama declined to speculate on his administration's approach to Tehran, saying such policy decisions could not be done in a "knee-jerk" fashion.

But he said an international effort must continue to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

"Iran's development of a nuclear weapon, I believe is unacceptable," he said.

U.S. bleeds 240,000 jobs in October

Earlier in the day, Obama and vice-president-elect Joe Biden sought advice from their economic advisory board, which includes investor Warren Buffet, cabinet officials and executives from Xerox Corp., Time Warner Inc., Google Inc. and the Hyatt hotel company.

The meeting came as the U.S. Labour Department announced Friday that employment in the United States fell by a worse-than-expected 240,000 jobs in October.

The plunge in payrolls raised the unemployment rate to 6.5 per cent, up from 6.1 per cent in September. The U.S. jobless rate has not been that high since March 1994.

As well, automaker Ford posted a third-quarter loss of $129 million US and announced it will slash 10 per cent of its North American salaried workforce costs by the end of January. The same day, General Motors announced it lost $2.5 billion in the third quarter and warned that it could run out of cash in 2009.

With files from the Associated Press

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