Obama address: 'unprecedented action' needed

As he closes out his first week on the job, the President calls for action to stimulate the economy and save jobs.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Barack Obama painted a bleak economic picture of the country Saturday, hours before he will meet with his economic team.

"We begin this year and this administration in the midst of an unprecedented crisis that calls for unprecedented action," he said in his weekly radio and Internet address.

"Just this week, we saw more people file for unemployment than at any time in the last 26 years, and experts agree that if nothing is done, the unemployment rate could reach double digits," Obama said.

The president pleaded for urgent action, saying, "if we do not act boldly and swiftly, a bad situation could become dramatically worse."

Obama's remarks came as he is lobbying for a quick congressional passage of a $825 billion dollar stimulus package to pump up the economy.

The president revealed more details on his stimulus package, which he says would add more than 3,000 miles of electric lines to transport alternative energy across the country.

Obama also says the plan would save taxpayers $2 billion by making three-quarters of federal buildings more energy efficient, and would "save the average working family $350 on their energy bills by weatherizing 2.5 million homes."

Obama also reiterated his call to invest more in Pell Grants to make college more affordable. His American Reinvestment and Recovery Plan would temporarily increase the maximum Pell Grant by $500, which his advisers estimate will increase college affordability for 7 million students. His plan also calls for a new $2,500 college tax credit that his advisers say could help close to 4 million college students; and the tripling of the number of fellowships in science to help spur innovation."

Some Republicans in Congress are pushing back against the plan, questioning whether it will stimulate the economy. They also say the overall price tag is too expensive and want to see more in tax cuts for individuals and businesses and less in government spending.

There was some indication this week that despite the push to stimulate the economy quickly, the proposed tax cuts wouldn't reach consumers before June. (Full story)

Republicans have also said that stimulus money dedicated primarily to infrastructure initiatives would be spent too slowly - a claim based on an analysis by the Congressional Budget Office. To counter that objection, Peter Orszag, director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, told lawmakers in a letter that 75% of money for the entire recovery package would be spent within 18 months.

The president is calling for the plan, which he said will create or save up to four million jobs over the next two years, to be passed by Congress and at his desk for signing by Feb. 16, which is Presidents Day. To top of page

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