Good morning. This week I introduced new members of my economic team. For the
Secretary of the Treasury, I have submitted the name of John Snow, a respected
business leader and economist who shares my commitment to faster growth and
more new jobs for American workers. I have nominated Bill Donaldson to serve
as Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, to vigorously enforce
the laws against corporate corruption. And here at the White House, Steve Friedman
will be the Director of the National Economic Council, giving me daily advice
on our economy.
These leaders will assume their duties at an important moment for our economy.
There are many good signs. Inflation is firmly under control, which means food,
clothing, and other necessities are more affordable. Mortgage interest rates
remain at historic lows, helping more Americans become homeowners. And growth
has returned to the American economy.
Yet we also face specific challenges that could slow the recovery and limit
future growth. Many Americans have very little money left over after taxes.
Some struggle under a weight of debt that makes it difficult to save for retirement.
Investor confidence needs to be strengthened in practical ways. And the nation's
rate of unemployment is now 6 percent, and significantly higher in some parts
of America. We will not rest until every person in America who wants to work
can find a job.
The new Congress that convenes next month will have a responsibility to address
these challenges, and I will be making specific proposals to increase the momentum
of economic recovery through a growth and jobs package.
The last Congress also left behind some unfinished business. The House and Senate
passed different bills extending unemployment benefits. However, no final bill
was sent to me extending unemployment benefits for about 750,000 Americans whose
benefits will expire on December 28th. These Americans rely on their unemployment
benefits to pay for the mortgage or rent, food, and other critical bills. They
need our assistance in these difficult times, and we cannot let them down.
I have shared these concerns with leaders of the House and the Senate and they
understand the need for early action. When our legislators return to the Capitol,
I ask them to make the extension of unemployment benefits a first order of business.
And the benefits they approve should be retroactive, so that people who lose
their benefits this month will be paid in full. I've also directed the Department
of Labor to work with the states to minimize any delay in helping these Americans
once Congress has acted and extended these benefits.
I look forward to working with members of both parties in the new Congress on
our economic challenges. We must help our fellow citizens who have lost their
jobs. And we must create an environment in which businesses, especially small
businesses, can grow and generate the new jobs our country needs.