President Elect Barack Obama’s incoming White House chief of staff stresses that the new administration intends to “throw long and deep,” right after the kick-off in January, taking advantage of the economic crisis to push dramatic changes in health care, taxes, financial re-regulation and energy.
“The American people in two successive elections have voted for change, and change cannot be allowed to die on the doorsteps of Washington,” Rep. Rahm Emanuel said Tues. evening to The Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council, a forum designed to solicit corporate opinion on the challenges facing the new president.
Focusing initially on health care, the Illinois Democrat - known for his feistiness as head of the House Democratic Caucus - challenged the business leaders attendees to lock-step with the new administration in a push for universal health care, stressing incremental increases in coverage won’t be acceptable, according to a report in the Journal.
“When it gets rough out there, a lot of business leaders get out of the car and say, ‘We’re OK with minor reform.’ I’m challenging you today, we’re going to have to do big, serious things,” Emanuel said.
At the forum which took place in Washington, Emanuel declined to indicate whether the new White House would back the push by labor unions to allow workplaces to be organized with the signing of cards attesting to union support - rather than a secret ballot.
Taking up the general theme, however, he said the unions were properly zeroing-in on the concerns of a middle class that has seen U.S. median income slide over the past eight years, while health care, energy and education costs have soared.
He added that business leaders should help find solutions to the middle-class crunch or face a populist revolution “We need a strategy as a country to make sure they have an opportunity to move up that ladder,” he said.
Speaking to the conference on the heels of an emotional appearance before his Caucus, Emanuel pledged that a major economic stimulus would be “the first order of business” for Obama.
He noted that the new spending will target infrastructure, specifically “green infrastructure,” which would include mass transit, upgraded electricity transmission lines, “smart” electrical meters that allow consumers to save money by using electricity at off-peak hours, and universal broadband Internet access.
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