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‘First of all, we need a rescue plan for the middle class’

Barack Obama on Friday held his first news conference since being elected president. Speaking to reporters in Chicago for just less than 20 minutes, he offered an overview of how he plans to deal with the economy, and then he took nine questions.

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Obama’s four-part plan for the economy:

First of all, we need a rescue plan for the middle class that invests in immediate efforts to create jobs and provide relief to families that are watching their paychecks shrink and their life savings disappear.

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A particularly urgent priority is a further extension of unemployment insurance benefits for workers who cannot find work in the increasingly weak economy.

A fiscal stimulus plan that will jump-start economic growth is long overdue. I’ve talked about it throughout this -- the last few months of the campaign. We should get it done.

Second, we have to address the spreading impact of the financial crisis on the other sectors of our economy: small businesses that are struggling to meet their payrolls and finance their holiday inventories; and state and municipal governments facing devastating budget cuts and tax increases.

We must also remember that the financial crisis is increasingly global and requires a global response.

The news coming out of the auto industry this week reminds us of the hardship it faces, hardship that goes far beyond individual auto companies to the countless suppliers, small businesses and communities throughout our nation who depend on a vibrant American auto industry.

The auto industry is the backbone of American manufacturing and a critical part of our attempt to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

I would like to see the administration do everything it can to accelerate the retooling assistance that Congress has already enacted. In addition, I have made it a high priority for my transition team to work on additional policy options to help the auto industry adjust, weather the financial crisis and succeed in producing fuel-efficient cars here in the United States of America. . . .

Third, we will review the implementation of this administration’s financial program to ensure that the government’s efforts are achieving their central goal of stabilizing financial markets while protecting taxpayers, helping homeowners, and not unduly rewarding the management of financial firms that are receiving government assistance. . . .

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Finally, as we monitor and address these immediate economic challenges, we will be moving forward in laying out a set of policies that will grow our middle class and strengthen our economy in the long term. We cannot afford to wait on moving forward on the key priorities that I identified during the campaign, including clean energy, healthcare, education and tax relief for middle-class families.

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On dealing with Iran and answering the congratulatory letter Obama received:

Iran’s development of a nuclear weapon, I believe, is unacceptable. And we have to mount an international effort to prevent that from happening.

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Iran’s support of terrorist organizations, I think, is something that has to cease.

I will be reviewing the letter from President [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad, and we will respond appropriately. It’s only been three days since the election.

Obviously, how we approach and deal with a country like Iran is not something that we should, you know, simply do in a knee-jerk fashion. I think we’ve got to think it through.

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On filling Cabinet posts:

When we have an announcement about Cabinet appointments, we will make them. . . . I’m confident that we’re going to have an outstanding team, and we will be rolling that out in subsequent weeks.

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On getting a puppy:

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We have two criteria that have to be reconciled. One is that Malia [Obama’s daughter] is allergic, so it has to be hypoallergenic. There are a number of breeds that are hypoallergenic.

On the other hand, our preference would be to get a shelter dog, but, obviously, a lot of shelter dogs are mutts, like me. So -- so whether we’re going to be able to balance those two things, I think, is a pressing issue on the Obama household.

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On increasing taxes on upper-income Americans:

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I think that the plan that we’ve put forward is the right one, but, obviously, over the next several weeks and months, we’re going to be continuing to take a look at the data and see what’s taking place in the economy as a whole.

But, understand, the goal of my plan is to provide tax relief to families that are struggling, but also to boost the capacity of the economy to grow from the bottom up.


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