Obama Gears Up to Face Economic Meltdown

President-elect Barack Obama won't officially name his top economic advisers until Monday, but his aides were already bandying their names this weekend -- big names.

"[Timothy] Geithner and [Larry] Summers, you know," Austan Goolsbee, Obama's economic adviser, said on CBS' "Face the Nation" Sunday. "You don't get any bigger names than that."

Geithner, the New York Fed president, is Obama's pick for Treasury secretary. Former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers is Obama's choice to head the National Economic Council, ABC News has learned.

They will oversee a massive two-year plan Obama announced in his radio address this weekend, a program designed to create 2.5 million jobs by 2011. Obama called it "a plan big enough to meet the challenges we face that I intend to sign soon after taking office."

How big? Obama aides won't say.

Asked by ABC's George Stephanopoulos how much Obama's stimulus plan would cost, Obama adviser David Axelrod said, "George, I'm not going to throw a figure out here."

But Obama aides did not challenge the assertion that it will be considerably bigger than the $175 billion plan Obama discussed in October while still on the campaign trail.

One key Democrat, New York Sen. Charles Schumer, told Stephanopoulos it needs to be on par with the stimulus already approved by President Bush.

"It has to be between $5 [billion] and $700 billion," Schumer said on ABC's "This Week With George Stephanopoulos."

It is an effort not seen since the Great Depression -- so big that the latest Time magazine cover calls it Obama's "New New Deal," after President Franklin Roosevelt's public works program.

As Obama intoned, "We'll put people back to work rebuilding our crumbling roads and bridges, modernizing schools that are failing our children," careful listeners could hear the echoes of FDR's first inaugural address: "Our greatest primary task is to put people to work."

Both talked of the need to act immediately.

"It sounded to me as if Obama had taken that directly from Roosevelt's inaugural speech," presidential historian Robert Dallek told ABC News. "There are some striking similarities here."

In "The Return of Depression Economics," Nobel Prize-Winning economist Paul Krugman literally wrote the book on the subject. He warns that Obama might have to think bigger.

The economy could lose hundreds of thousands more jobs before the president-elect takes office Jan. 20, and he'll have to act boldly and quickly to stave off a return to the dismal economy of the 1930s, he said. Yet for now, Krugman said, the current crisis remains considerably smaller per capita than that of the Great Depression.

"As some people are saying, we don't have men in rags on the street begging for a dime," Krugman said. "We've got at the moment well-dressed executives in Congress, begging for [$]25 billion."

The economic crisis could also postpone Obama's plan to raise taxes on the wealthy. An Obama aide told ABC News some of the president-elect's advisers are urging him not to end Bush's tax cuts in his first year in office.

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