"Well, let's look at the package as a whole. The bulk of the package is direct government spending... Now there is no doubt that that probably gives you the most bang for the buck in terms of stimulus, in terms of getting the economy started, putting people back to work," he said. "But there are only so many projects that you can do quickly of that sort. And so then the question becomes, do tax cuts also provide a stimulus? Do they also help? And they may not help as much as some of the direct spending projects do, but they still provide a stimulus, especially if they are targeted towards people who are really in need."
But the president-elect also reiterated "our general philosophy....is we don't have pride of authorship."
"There are a couple of basic principles that I laid out. We've got to move quickly. We've got to make sure that any investments that we make have good long-term benefits for the economy, not just short-term.... but, if people have better ideas on certain provisions, if they say, you know, this is going to work better than that, then we welcome that. And so we're going to have a collaborative, consultative process with Congress over the next few days. But what we can't do is get involved in the typical partisan wrangling or pet project, you know, bartering that takes place."
But red flags have already been raised over "pet projects." Obama responded to criticism surrounding funding for a planned Museum of Organized Crime in Las Vegas explaining, "let's be clear, that was a project that was proposed as part of the mayors' project. The country's mayors put together...a range of projects we can do, we didn't include that."
When pressed if he would want such projects funded, Obama reiterated, "I think that what we have to do is evaluate whether or not these are projects that, as I said, are going to provide long-term benefits to the economy."
"In a package of this magnitude, will there end up being certain projects that potentially don't meet that criteria of helping on health care, energy, or education? Certainly. But what we don't want is this thing to be a Christmas tree loaded up with a whole bunch of pet projects that people have for their local communities."
While the President-elect has made it clear that the economic recovery package is his top priority, the timeline for passing such large legislation remains unclear. Obama has said he wants it done by Presidents Day weekend. "We're not trying to jam anything down people's throats," he said.
"Here's what we know though, that the sooner a recovery and reinvestment package is in place, the sooner we can start turning the economy around. We can't afford three, four, five, six more months where we're losing half a million jobs per month."
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi dialed up the pressure on Congress earlier in the week, warning that that there will be no break for the Presidents' Day holiday if the package is not completed by then.
On Capitol Hill, the debate continues over the use of the second half of the $700 billion bailout provided under TARP. Obama weighed in on how the remaining $350 billion in rescue funds should be spent.
"I think that when you look at how we have handled the home foreclosure situation and whether we've done enough in terms of helping families on the ground who may have lost their homes because they lost their jobs or because they got sick, we haven't done enough there," he said.