Obama Warns of ‘Catastrophe’ Without Action

President Barack Obama on Friday announced the formation of the Economic Recovery Advisory Board to assist in the “months and years” to come of economic recovery. The announcement came in the midst of Congressional bickering over the financial stimulus package, the passage of which is being held up by criticism that too much government spending and not enough tax cuts will have no significant effect reducing the national deficit and encouraging consumer spending in the short term. “[I]f we drag our feet and fail to act, this crisis will turn into a catastrophe,” Obama said. “We’ll continue to get devastating job reports like today’s – month after month, year after year…. If we don’t do anything, millions more jobs will be lost. More families will lose their homes.” The President’s remarks came hours after the U.S. Labor Department reported the unemployment rate had reached 7.6 percent in January, up from the 7.2 percent reported for December. Non-farm payrolls plunged 598,000, after dropping 577,000 in December. Payroll employment has now declined a total of 3.6 million, representing about 2.6 percent of employment, since the start of the recession in December 2007, according to the report. If that’s not astonishing enough, about one-half of that 3.6 million decline occurred in the past three months. Obama has consistently called for the Senate to resolve quickly on the financial stimulus bill that he claims will save and create some 3 million jobs and encourage consumer spending. The bill has been held up in recent days by a reluctant GOP and an effort from both sides of the aisle to trim the Senate’s version of the bill some $100 billion (it stands at more than $900 billion as of the passage of the home buyer tax credit earlier this week). “It is inexcusable and irresponsible for any of us to get bogged down in distraction and delay or politics as usual while millions of Americans are being put out of work,” he said. “Now is the time for Congress to act.” In an effort to coordinate the recovery efforts like the stimulus bill being discussed and dissected in Congress — and which might hit the President’s desk mid-February — Obama announced the creation of the Economic Recovery Advisory Board. “I created this board to enlist voices to come from beyond the Washington echo chamber, to ensure that no stone is unturned as we work to put people back to work and to get our economy moving,” Obama said. “We will meet regularly so that I can hear different ideas and sharpen my own, and seek counsel that is candid and informed by the wider world.” The board will be headed by former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker, whom Obama called “one of the world’s most experienced and insightful economic minds,” with the assistance of presidential economic advisor Austan Goolsbee and former Securities and Exchange Commission chairman William Donaldson, among other economists, professors and leading financial executives. CBS News obtained a copy of the President’s remarks, which can be read here. Write to Diana Golobay at diana.golobay@housingwire.com.

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