Obama Pushes Economic Plan, Saying It Can't Wait

But half of the cash is intended to create up to 3 million jobs by spending on infrastructure, energy, education and health care.

In a concession to the reality of congressional action, the administration has dropped its plans to have the legislation written and passed in time for Obama to sign immediately after his inauguration on Jan. 20. Instead, the administration is now shooting to have it ready for the president by mid-February.

The sheer size and expense of the project has many Republicans already criticizing what they have heard of the plan through the media, but even some of president-elect's supporters question whether it is plausible that so many new jobs can be created.

"Time and again history has proven government-centered job creation doesn't work. Under [President] Carter in the late '70s people had all sorts of plans and ignored larger economic realities," former House Speaker Newt Gingrich told ABCNews.com.

"In Japan they spent 13 years building an airport no one [once used]. Under the Socialists the French tried over and over again to create jobs and it didn't work. We know what creates jobs and it isn't putting the Treasury Department at the center of American capitalism. We need an investment strategy that supports the private sector and small entrepreneurial businesses," he said.

Just before Thanksgiving, Obama pledged to "create or preserve" 2.5 million jobs, a figure he increased to 3 million less than a month later after receiving projections that indicated that without substantial action, up to 4 million jobs would be lost in 2009 and unemployment could rise precipitously.

Jobless Rate Highest in 15 Years

The unemployment rate in November 2008 -- the last month the federal government released statistics -- was 6.7 percent, the highest in 15 years.

In his weekly radio address Saturday, Obama called creating 3 million new jobs "the No. 1 goal of my plan" and said 80 percent of them would be in the private sector.

"There is a real difference between creating 3 million new jobs and creating or preserving 3 million jobs," Robert Reich, treasury secretary under President Clinton, told ABCNews.com. "The economy lost 1.9 million jobs in 2008, and if nothing is done we'll probably lose 2 million or more in 2009. The stimulus plan could conceivably prevent a lot of that from happening."

Speaking Saturday, Obama did not give a time frame in which the new jobs would be created, but in December he set a goal of creating or saving 3 million jobs in two years.

"Creating and preserving jobs is a more realistic goal than just creating them and it depends on the time frame. Something needs to be done to stop the erosion in 2009," said Reich who will testify about the unemployment rate Wednesday on Capitol Hill.

In 2009, Reich said, a goal of creating or saving a total of 1.5 million jobs was reasonable, but employment rates were contingent more on stimulating the economy back to health than establishing jobs programs.

"Realistically," he said, "instead of 2.5 million jobs lost in 2009, you lose 1.5 million, so that's 1 million there. If we create new jobs net half a million, that's a total of 1.5 million."

During the presidential campaign -- before the scope of the unemployment crisis was known -- Obama pledged to invest $150 billion in 10 years to create about 5 million "new green jobs" in industries that will produce the next generation of alternative fuels, plug-in hybrid automobiles and a power grid.

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