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Obama Charts Ambitious Economic Course

With the stock market wobbling, job losses soaring over a million for this year alone and the economy not responding to the measures taken to stem the tide of the crisis, President-elect Barack Obama is setting the table for a long struggle to make things right, reports CBS News correspondent Dean Reynolds.

Mr. Obama will introduce his new economic leadership team Monday, a key step toward enacting a huge new economic recovery plan that aims to save or create 2.5 million jobs over the next two years.

The plan is likely to far exceed the $175 billion Mr. Obama proposed during the campaign. It would include an infusion of money for infrastructure projects, new environmental technologies and tax cuts for low- and middle-income taxpayers. It will not call for tax hikes for the wealthy.

Mr. Obama aides on Sunday called on the new Congress to pass by the Jan. 20 inauguration legislation that meets Obama's two-year goal of saving or creating 2.5 million jobs. Democratic congressional leaders said they would get to work when Congress convenes Jan. 6 with bigger Democratic majorities in the House and Senate.

With the wounded economy worsening, the Obama team's new assertiveness was a recognition he needed to soothe financial markets with signs of leadership. It also foreshadowed a more hands-on role by Mr. Obama to influence congressional action during the final weeks of the transition.

"This is as big of an economic crisis as we've faced in 75 years," Obama economic adviser Austan Goolsbee said Sunday on Face The Nation.

Heading his economic team will be Timothy Geithner as treasury secretary and Lawrence Summers as head of the National Economic Council. Mr. Obama also has settled on New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson as his commerce secretary.

In addition, a Democratic source tells CBS News that Christina Romer, an economics professor at the University Of California, Berkeley, will be named Mr. Obama's chair of the Council of Economic Advisers. Romer will be in attendance at today's news conference in Chicago. (Watch it live here at Noon ET)

"We don't have time to waste here," Obama senior adviser David Axelrod said. "We want to hit the ground running on January 20."

Echoing that, the second-ranking House Democrat, Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, said, "We expect to have during the first couple of weeks of January a package for the president's consideration when he takes office."

While Mr. Obama and his team are focused on the work of the new Congress, they also weighed in work pending before the current one.

Axelrod warned automakers seeking billions in government help to stave off collapse to devise a plan to retool and restructure that they can present to Congress next month. Otherwise, he said, "there is very little taxpayers can do to help them."

Adding to the government's bailout measures was a $20 billion rescue package announced Sunday to keep Citigroup afloat. Citi was another company that made, in retrospect, awful mortgage related investments, reports CBS News correspondent Jeff Glor.

"Citigroup is too large to fail," Mark Zandi of Moody's told CBS News. "It's a large, global financial institution. If it were to fail, it would take the rest of the financial system, what's left of it, with it."

The emphasis on the economy began Saturday when Mr. Obama outlined the framework to save or create 2.5 million jobs by the end of 2010. The scope of the recovery package is far more ambitious than Obama had spelled out during his presidential campaign, when he proposed $175 billion of spending and tax-cutting stimulus.

The plan will include public works projects similar to the New Deal of Franklin Delano Roosevelt - bridge and road building and school repair, reports Reynolds. And a significant element will be creating new jobs in environmentally friendly technologies - the "green economy." It also would include his proposals for tax relief for middle- and lower-income workers.

But there were no plans to balance the tax cuts with an immediate tax increase on the wealthy. During the campaign, Mr. Obama said he would pay for increased tax relief by raising taxes on people making more than $250,000.

"There won't be any tax increases in the January package," said one Obama aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the details of the Obama package have not been fleshed out.

Mr. Obama could delay any tax increase to 2011, when current Bush administration tax cuts expire.

House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio urged Mr. Obama to make that explicit. "Why wouldn't we have the president-elect say, `I am not going to raise taxes on any American in my first two years in office?"'

Some economists have endorsed spending up to $600 billion to revive the economy. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and former labor Secretary Robert Reich, a member of Mr. Obama's economic advisory board, both suggested $500 billion to $700 billion.

"I don't know what the number is going to be, but it's going to be a big number," Goolsbee said. "It has to be. The point is to, kind of, get people back on track and startle the thing into submission."

Axelrod and Schumer appeared on ABC's "This Week"; Hoyer and Boehner appeared on "Fox News Sunday"; Goolsbee appeared on CBS' Face the Nation; and Reich appeared on CNN's "Late Edition."

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