8 Nov 2008

Obama promises rescue plan for US middle class

10:58 am on 8 November 2008

President-elect Barack Obama says he is giving top priority to a financial rescue plan for the US and, in particular, the middle class.

In his first news conference on Saturday morning (NZT) since his election victory, he vowed to confront the economic crisis "head-on" immediately after taking office in January.

Before the news conference, Mr Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden held talks with a 17-member council of economic advisers.

Mr Obama did not make any new personnel announcements.

"It's not going to be quick and it's not going to be easy to dig ourselves out of the hole we are in," he said.

"But America is a strong and resilient country and I know that we will succeed if we put aside partisanship and politics to work together as one nation."

Clinton-era Treasury Secretary Larry Summers and his predecessor, Robert Rubin, as well as Paul Volcker, who was chairman of the Federal Reserve under presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan, attended the meeting.

Google chief executive Eric Schmidt and billionaire investor Warren Buffet joined the talks.

Analysts say the president-elect's mind will be focused by figures from the US labour department on Friday which revealed the economy had shed 240,000 jobs in October, bringing job losses so far this year to 1.2 million.

Mr Obama has already appointed as his chief-of-staff combative Illinois congressman Rahm Emanuel, who was once an adviser to President Bill Clinton.

He is also working with Democratic leaders in Congress on plans for two economic stimulus packages.

This reportedly will include tax cuts for low- and middle-income workers, and plans to finance public infrastructure projects, to extend unemployment and food-stamp benefits, and to provide aid to badly affected states and cities.

Mr Obama is due to discuss the economy with President Bush at the White House on Monday. He will not, however, attend the G20 economic summit to be held in Washington next weekend, senior officials have said.

What happens next?

9 Dec: Deadline for states to resolve issues such as recounts or challenges

15 Dec: Electoral college electors meet in each state to formally cast their votes

6 Jan: Joint session of Congress to count electoral college votes

Before 20 Jan: Barack Obama and Joe Biden must resign from the Senate

20 Jan: Inauguration day