Barack Obama will transform a U.S. economy reeling from the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression — and he may not wait until Inauguration Day to get started.
He’ll get his chance when Congress returns in less than two weeks for a lame-duck session with plans to pass another economic stimulus bill. Such a package would only be a down payment on Obama’s economic recovery program if the Republican incumbent, George W. Bush, supports it. The rest will come when Obama, 47, is in the White House.
The Democratic president-elect has much more on his agenda, amounting to what may be the broadest overhaul of the U.S. economy since Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. Beyond job creation and big investments in public works, Obama intends to shift the tax burden back toward the wealthy, roll back a quarter-century of deregulation, extend health-care coverage to all Americans and reassess the U.S. government’s pursuit of free- trade deals.
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“The changes will be far greater than many expect,” said Andrew Laperriere, managing director at International Strategy & Investment Group, a money management and research firm in Washington. “From taxes to energy to health care, it’s a pretty sweeping agenda.”
In the 2 1/2 months leading up to the Jan. 20 inauguration, the president-elect’s challenge will be to work with the Bush administration on a transition that is collegial without being collaborative.
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Bush, partly at the behest of European leaders, will convene a summit Nov. 15 to discuss longer-term strategies to prevent another credit crisis. That could put the president-elect in an awkward position, because he’ll be pressed to render his views on a meeting at which he has no official standing.
It “might not be such a good idea” for Obama and his team “to take a prominent role at the Nov. 15 summit,” said Mickey Kantor, who worked on Bill Clinton’s transition team in 1992 and later served as U.S. trade representative and Commerce secretary. “It’s Bush’s show, and you don’t want any confusion about that.”