Obama pushes stimulus in Indiana

Thousands line up for Town Hall mtg.
February 9, 2009 4:24:39 PM PST
Pres. Obama answered questions at a town meeting in Elkhart County on Monday. At the town meeting in a county that he did not carry in November, President Obama used a risky question and answer format in which the questions were not pre-screened.

"There are some people in the audience that like me, some that don't. Some that agree with me and some that don't. It doesn't matter. We want to take questions from everybody," said Obama.

For 30 minutes, the president's answers tried to sell the over $800 billion recovery and investment plan that Obama promised would put two to three million Americans to work - the first within weeks - if the Congress acts swiftly.

"Doing nothing is not an option," said Obama.

Pres. Obama told the crowd at Concord High School the nation cannot afford to "posture and bicker" while people are losing their jobs by the millions in a failing economy. He said the nation is facing "an economic crisis as deep and as dire as any since the Great Depression."

"We can't afford to wait. We can't wait to see and hope for the best," Obama said in Elkhart, Ind., a community reeling in job losses during the recession that has defined Obama's young presidency. "We can't posture and bicker and resort to the same failed ideas that got us in into this mess in the first place."

He acknowledged that the bill currently circulating in Congress is not beyond criticism, even poking fun at its authors at one point. Said Obama: "It's coming out of Washington. It's going through Congress."

"You know, look, it's not perfect," the president conceded. "But it is the right size, it is the right scope. Broadly speaking, it has the right priorities to create jobs that will jump-start our economy and transform the economy for the 21st century."

The $827 billion Senate version of the plan was expected to pass the Senate on Tuesday. However, it remained to be seen how much GOP support it would draw. And it must be reconciled with the House version, which totaled $820 billion in spending and tax cuts. Senate and House negotiators were already preparing to deal, with the goal of a bill on Obama's desk by the end of this week or beginning of next.

Obama went so far as to say he could not assure that every item in the stimulus plan would work as hoped. But he said he has no doubts that "delay or paralysis" in Washington will deepen the country's crisis.

Elkhart County is the heart of the nation's recreational vehicle industry. After last year's record fuel prices and beginning recession, unemployment there rose from just under five to over 15 per cent of the workforce. The city's unemployment rate is 15.3-percent. One year ago, it was only 4.7-percent.

Foreclosures are up sharply in the towns of Elkhart, Dunlap and Goshen which until last year were Republican strongholds. Rich Floria did not vote for Obama last fall but will support the newly-elected president's effort to re-build the economy.

"I support him as my president. I'm here to listen and I want him to be successful because if he is, we all are," said Rich Floria of Elkhart.

The very obvious presidential tactic is to put places, people, and their predicaments in the news to put pressure on the lawmakers. The president will continue the tactic on Monday night in Florida, hoping to get that economic stimulus bill passed and signed as soon as possible.

Only 2,000 people can fit inside the gym- and those free tickets were gone in an hour over the weekend. Thousands more people waited outside to get a glimpse of the president.

It is Obama's first trip outside of Washington D.C. since his inauguration. He and his family spent the weekend at Camp David but will be in Chicago later this week.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.