via a special arrangement with Informa Economics, Inc.
Asked whether an agreement on the shape of the stimulus bill
would be reached by Christmas, Biden said: "I think we're
getting awful close to that." But he did not detail how much the
measure would cost once the team of President-elect Barack Obama takes
office on January 20, with Congress considering the measure as soon
as Jan. 6. Conjecture about the total cost runs from $650 billion to
$850 billion over two years.
Reacting to the worsening economy, which the government
on Tuesday said shrank by an annual rate of 0.5 percent in the third
quarter, Biden said the incoming administration has had to raise its
job-creation goals to 3 million, from earlier projections of 2.5 million,
over the next two years. "This has to be substantial," Biden
said of the stimulus plan. "It has to create jobs immediately."
He added that 85 percent of the jobs created would be in the private
sector. Much of the spending will be directed to "critical investments
in the nation's roads and bridges," he said.
"We're all getting very close to an overall number and
we're getting close to the specific kinds of investment," Biden
said, adding that the new administration and congressional leaders are
very close to agreeing on the size of the stimulus package, and where
the money will go. He said Obama and his advisers want to spend much
of it to rebuild the nation's infrastructure. "This plan will be
focused on making investments in health care, education and energy,
among other areas. And it will be directed at critical investments in
the nation's roads and our bridges," he said. "I know there
is some talk of us investing in programs that are already in existence.
But we have let our infrastructure crumble for a long, long time - from
water to roads to bridges - and it makes sense to invest in them now."
Jon Corzine, Democratic Gov. of New Jersey, in an op-ed item in
today's Washington Post, wrote that for every billion dollars spent
on infrastructure, upwards of 20,000 people are put to work. Corzine
said the stimulus should be roughly divided into five categories: infrastructure,
counter-cyclical programs, housing, education block grants and middle-class
In one of the first internal struggles of the Obama administration,
environmentalists and smart-growth advocates are trying to shift the
forthcoming stimulus package away from traditional infrastructure spending
to more projects that create “green-collar” jobs, the
Washington Post reported.
The stimulus package will also include a "down-payment"
for the tax cut "that we've promised for the strapped middle class,"
Biden met with seven advisors for an hour as Obama vacationed
in Hawaii. Members of Obama's economic team attending the session
at the Washington transition headquarters included Lawrence Summers,
director of the National Economic Council; Carol Browner, environment
and energy czar; Jason Furman, economic policy coordinator for the Obama
campaign; Jeanne Lambrew, deputy director of Obama's White House Office
of Health Reform; Melody Barnes, director of the Domestic Policy Council;
Phil Schiliro, congressional liaison; and Jared Bernstein, Biden's economic
Biden singled out special-interest projects. "There
will be -- I will say it again -- there will be no earmarks in this
economic recovery plan," he said. "I know it's Christmas.
I know it's the Christmas season. But President-elect Obama and I are
absolutely determined that this economic recovery package will not become
a Christmas tree."
Lobbying for inclusion in the coming package continues.
Retailers sent a letter to Obama's team Tuesday proposing that up to
$25 billion in stimulus money be set aside for sales-tax holidays stretched
over 30 days in 2009. The federal government would use stimulus money
to reimburse states for suspending sales taxes during these periods,
under the plan laid out by the National Retail Federation.
At Tuesday's meeting, Summers said: "Without substantial
policy action, we would almost certainly face the worst economic downturn
since the Second World War. That's why it is imperative that we take
action to maintain demand, to maintain jobs, to maintain incomes."