President Obama went directly to the public today in his first weekly address since moving into the White House, making the case for his nearly $1 trillion stimulus package that he hopes to sign next month.
"I have proposed an American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan to immediately jumpstart job creation as well as long-term economic growth," the president said.
Knowing the criticism that awaits the plan -- with its massive price tag and fewer tax breaks than Republicans would have liked -- when it reaches Capitol Hill, the president offered specifics to make his case.
"We will double our capacity to generate alternative sources of energy like wind, solar, and biofuels over the next three years," Obama said.
The stimulus would also:
move that new power by laying down 3,000 more miles of electric transmission lines;
make federal buildings more energy efficient;
weatherize 2.5 million homes. computerize the nation's health records in five years;
protect health insurance for 8 million Americans in danger of losing their coverage;
modernize 10,000 schools. spend more on college grants;
create new mass transit projects;
secure 90 major ports and expand broadband access to millions of Americans
"This is a twofer. It's a stimulus plan but it's also a Democratic Party wish list," said political analyst Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia. "The average president doesn't get nearly a trillion dollars of new money to spend in a whole term. Obama's going to get it in the first month or so of his presidency."
Promising a new openness, Obama said he'll show Americans the money on a new White House Web site -- listing projects in each town, the cost, the contractor and how many people it will employ.
He said that Web site will allow the public to "hold my administration accountable" for the money being spent and where it is going. He hopes to have the stimulus passed by mid-February, and the site up and running shortly thereafter.
But Republicans, who along with Democratic leaders met with Obama on Friday, still have reservations. A Democratic version was approved by a House committee last week without a single Republican vote.
"Unfortunately, the trillion-dollar spending plan authored by congressional Democrats is chock-full of government programs and projects -- most of which won't provide immediate relief to our ailing economy," House Republican leader Rep. John Boehner of Ohio said.
Some items, such as unemployment and health insurance benefits and aid to state governments, would reach the economy in the next year. But many will take years to take effect.
"I think it's fair to say that what the president is doing here is trying to accomplish some long-terms goals at the same time that he's trying to help the economy in the here and now," said Mark Zandi of Moody's economy.com.
"I think the stimulus is not only '09 but 2010, '11 and beyond," he said. "The economy is in trouble and it's going to be in trouble for quite some time and even if it gets this help, in later years I think it still could be very helpful."