WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President-elect Barack Obama said on Saturday his plan to create at least 2.5 million new jobs included the largest infrastructure investment since the 1950s and a huge effort to reduce U.S. government energy use.
The United States will also make a big push to expand access to high-speed Internet and modernize school buildings across the country, he said.
“We need action -- and action now,” Obama said in the Democratic Party’s weekly radio address, one day after government data showed U.S. employers had axed 533,000 jobs in November, the most in 34 years.
Obama, who takes office on January 20, has promised to move quickly to pull the U.S. economy out of a recession which has already pushed the unemployment rate to 6.7 percent and could take it above 8 percent by late next year.
He has started by asking his economic team to come up with a plan to create at least 2.5 million new jobs by 2011. Congress is also expected to pass a hefty new economic stimulus bill in January that could be ready for Obama’s signature immediately after he is sworn in.
“First, we will launch a massive effort to make public buildings more energy-efficient. Our government now pays the highest energy bill in the world,” Obama said.
Replacing old heating systems and installing energy efficient light bulbs in federal buildings would save taxpayers billions of dollars, as well as create new jobs, he said.
Millions of new jobs would also come from “the single largest new investment in our national infrastructure since the creation of the federal highway system in the 1950s,” Obama said, without providing a precise amount.
Under the plan, states would lose federal money unless they act quickly to build or repair roads and bridges.
“We’ll set a simple rule -- use it or lose it,” he said.
Obama’s plan, which he said would be fleshed out in greater detail in coming weeks, includes modernizing schools to make them energy efficient and putting new computers in classrooms.
“We’ll also renew our information superhighway. It is unacceptable that the United States ranks 15th in broadband adoption,” he said.
Obama said he wants to hook more schools and libraries up to the Internet and also ensure U.S. hospitals are connected to each other electronically.
Making sure that every doctor’s office and hospital in the United States is using cutting edge technology and electronic medical records would “cut red tape, prevent medical mistakes and save billions of dollars each year,” he said.