Those could include extending unemployment benefits and food stamps, funding state and local infrastructure projects as a means to create jobs, providing federal funds to state governments to cover rising Medicaid costs, offering mortgage relief for struggling homeowners, implementing tax cuts or rebate checks or even extending existing tax rates, and possibly providing money to help Americans pay for higher heating bills this winter.
Who will pay higher taxes and who will get a tax cut has been a defining issue in this election, with Joe the Plumber becoming a symbol of American fears of "redistribution" of wealth through changes in tax policy.
Obama says he wants to preserve the Bush tax cuts for families earning less than $250,000 and wants to expand tax credits for low-income families as part of his Making Work Pay program.
For families making less than $250,000, Obama supports higher taxes. But he would eliminate income taxes on seniors making less than $50,000 and encourage job creation; he wants to eliminate capital gains tax on small businesses and startups.
McCain says a downturn is no time to raise taxes on anyone. He wants to preserve the Bush tax cuts on income, capital gains and estates. And to stimulate the economy, McCain wants to lower the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent.
The ailing auto industry will also be a challenge facing the new president. Thousands may face unemployment if General Motors, Ford or Chrysler is forced into bankruptcy. Obama says he supports some aid to carmakers, in addition to the $25 billion loan program approved by Congress in September. McCain has indicated support for the loan program but has not said whether he supports additional aid.
Obama says he would create 2 million jobs by rebuilding the country's infrastructure and he hopes to create 5 million "green jobs" through investment in renewable energy and building out the broadband network to all corners of the country. McCain says by opening up the country to more oil drilling and through the development of alternative energy sources, the nation can create millions of new jobs and reverse "three decades of failed energy policies."
And how will the stock market react to the outcome? Many say an Obama victory is already "baked in the cake" on Wall Street. And while history shows that stocks tend to rally the day after a Republican victory and sell off on a Democratic victory, in the long term the outcome of presidential elections is not a reliable predictor of performance.
Like many American voters, traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange are just ready for this long campaign to be over.
"I mean enough," said Jason Weisberg of Seaport Securities. "It seems like it's been going for the last four years."
Kenneth S. Rogoff, an economics professor at Harvard University and a former economist at both the International Monetary Fund and the Federal Reserve, said that the next U.S. president will grapple with a host of issues beyond the recession, such as a wave of retirements by the country's baby boomers that will put increased pressure on government services for seniors.