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Obama Urges "Dramatic Action" On Economy

Taking his economic pitch on the road Friday, President-elect Barack Obama promoted his plans to create long-lasting, well-paying jobs in cutting-edge industries like alternative energy as part of his mammoth plan to pull the country out of recession.

"It's not too late to change course - but only if we take dramatic action as soon as possible," the president-elect said as he sought an early victory on his stimulus program. He pledged: "The first job of my administration is to put people back to work and get our economy moving again."

Mr. Obama spoke after touring a chilly Midwest parts factory Friday as he sought to warm the public to his $825 billion economic stimulus program.

Wearing clear protective glasses with his dark business suit, Mr. Obama stopped at several work stations at a Bedford Heights, Ohio that manufactures parts for wind turbines.

The president-elect focused his remarks on so-called green technology - a big part of his multi-billion dollar stimulus plan.

"We're committing to double the production of renewable energy in the next three years, and to modernize more than 75% of federal buildings and improve the energy efficiency of two million American homes," Mr. Obama told employees at Cardinal Fastener & Specialty Co..

Mr. Obama's campaign-style event is the first of several he's expected to hold in the coming weeks to generate support for his plan to pull the country from recession.

His trip comes a day after the Senate approved giving him access to the second half of last fall's $700 billion financial industry bailout and after House Democrats unveiled a stimulus plan largely shaped by the president-elect's team.

By the time Congress sends the final stimulus plan to the White House, it could end up with a price tag of more than $1 trillion dollars, reports CBS News correspondent Susan Roberts

It's a staggering cost, but Mr. Obama insists that the cost of doing nothing would be higher. Citing an economy in crisis and worsening, Mr. Obama has spent the past two weeks securing lawmakers' backing for the eye-popping plan that has drawn skepticism from both Republicans and Democrats because of its price tag and tax provisions. He's now taking his pitch directly to the public - and trying to sell the sweeping package to lawmakers' constituents.


Read more about President-elect Obama's visit to Ohio
The stakes are enormous for Mr. Obama. Passage of the plan, and bipartisan passage in particular, would mark a significant achievement at the outset of his presidency as he inherits a recession in its second year from President George W. Bush. Defeat would be a blow, coming not just in his first weeks in office but also as joblessness increases, bank failures continue, investment portfolios shrink and home prices drop.

Either way, the success or failure of the plan could well set the tone for his first 100 days in office, if not his first year or longer.

After nearly two weeks in Washington, Mr. Obama scheduled a meeting with workers at the Cardinal Fastener & Specialty Co. in Bedford Heights, Ohio, a Cleveland suburb, to explain how he believes such companies and their workers would benefit from his plan.

Founded in 1983, the company has 65 employees and recently announced the creation of a wind power division to respond to what the company says is a surge of demand for their parts in the wind turbine industry. Mr. Obama argues his plan would create nearly 500,000 jobs by investing in alternative energy.

Ohio is among a large swath of the industrial Midwest that's been hit especially hard by the recession.

The most recent figures available show that Ohio's unemployment rate was higher than the national rate at 7.3 percent in November, with 435,000 out of work, up from 5.7 percent the year before. Foreclosure activity rose 26 percent in Ohio in 2008, putting it among states with the highest foreclosure rates. And demand for food stamps, Medicaid and unemployment benefits are on the rise.

Little more than two months ago, Mr. Obama won the state by four percentage points over Republican John McCain, part of his electoral landslide. Mr. Obama posted large numbers of votes in the state's heavily Democratic northeast corner that is home to many blue collar workers and liberals.

A Democratic-aligned group, Americans United, was airing a TV ad in the state urging people to call GOP Sen. George Voinovich to express their support for Mr. Obama's plan.

One of the largest bills ever to make its way through Congress, the legislation calls for federal spending of roughly $550 billion and tax cuts of $275 billion over the next two years to revive the sickly economy. It focuses heavily on energy, education, health care and jobs-producing highway construction.

Energy-related proposals include $32 billion to upgrade the nation's electrical distribution system, more than $20 billion in tax cuts to promote the development of alternatives to oil fuels, and billions more to make public housing, federal buildings and modest-income homes more energy efficient.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., have promised Obama they would send him the legislation for his signature by mid-February.

The plan already is running into resistance.

House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio accused Democrats of thinking they can "borrow and spend their way back to prosperity" and complained that there weren't enough tax cuts in the measure.

And House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey, D-Wis., suggested more even money was needed, saying: "This product may undershoot the mark."

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