President Barack Obama decried as "inexcusable and irresponsible" the delay of his economic recovery legislation in Congress with an estimated 3.6 million Americans losing their jobs since the recession began.
Mr. Obama's remarks were some of his most direct and pointed in support of the massive economic package that the Senate considered Friday and tried to pare down. Obama acknowledged the $900-billion-plus plan was not perfect and pledged to work with lawmakers to refine the measure, which he called "absolutely necessary."
"But broadly speaking, it is the right size," Obama said in prepared remarks. "It is the right scope... It will take months -- even years -- to renew our economy. But every day that Washington fails to act, that recovery is delayed." (Read the full text of Obama's prepared remarks on the economy.)
Employers slashed payrolls by 598,000, the most since the end of 1974, catapulting the unemployment rate to 7.6%. The rate is the highest since September 1992. (See related article.)
"These numbers demand action. It is inexcusable and irresponsible to get bogged down in distraction and delay while millions of Americans are being put out of work. It is time for Congress to act," Mr. Obama said bluntly.
"That's 3.6 million Americans who wake up every day wondering how they are going to pay their bills, stay in their homes, and provide for their children. That's 3.6 million Americans who need our help," he said.
Making good on a promise to name a diverse outside economic advisory panel, Mr. Obama appointed a slate of business, economic and labor leaders – from conservative economist Martin Feldstein to AFL-CIO secretary-treasurer Richard Trumka – to help guide him on the path out of recession.
The President's Economic Recovery Advisory Board, chaired by former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, will be modeled after the existing Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board to bring in voices from outside government to help shape policy.
Obama aides say the board will focus on short-term measures to stimulate the economy as well as longer-term efforts to restructure the regulatory apparatus overseeing financial markets. Austan Goolsbee, a University of Chicago economist and close campaign aide, will be its executive director.
Some of the panel's members have close Republican ties, such as Mr. Feldstein, a Reagan White House economist, and William H. Donaldson, a former chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission appointed by President George W. Bush. Others have close political ties to the president, including Penny Pritzker, an heir to the Hyatt hotel fortune, and Robert Wolf, chairman of chief executive of UBS Group Americas. The group also includes Roger W. Ferguson Jr., a former Federal Reserve vice chairman, not chief executive of TIAA-CREF, Silicon Valley venture capitalist John Doerr, and Jeffrey R. Immelt, chief executive of General Electric.
The advisory board:
William H. Donaldson, Chairman, SEC
Roger W. Ferguson, Jr., President & CEO, TIAA-CREF
Robert Wolf, Chairman & CEO, UBS Group Americas
David F. Swensen, CIO, Yale University
Mark T. Gallogly, Founder & Managing Partner, Centerbridge Partners L.P.
Penny Pritzker, Chairman & Founder, Pritzker Realty Group
John Doerr, Partner, Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers
Jim Owens, Chairman and CEO, Caterpillar Inc.
Monica C. Lozano, Publisher & Chief Executive Officer, La Opinion
Charles E. Phillips, Jr., President, Oracle Corporation
Anna Burger, Secretary-Treasurer, SEIU
Richard L. Trumka, Secretary-Treasurer, AFL-CIO
Laura D'Andrea Tyson, Dean, Haas School of Business at the University of California at Berkeley
Martin Feldstein, George F. Baker Professor of Economics, Harvard University
Jeffrey R. Immelt, CEO, GE