That is going to be what I’m going to be pushing for over the next few days as we complete the process to get this bill passed.
In terms of the economic stimulus bill, there is a focus on extending unemployment benefits and health-care benefits for unemployed workers. In terms of the financial stabilization proposal from Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, there is a focus on providing homeowners with relief in the form of loan modifications. How soon will those programs be available to individuals who need immediate relief?
Those things that we can do administratively, we’re going to do right away. Obviously on housing, for example, we’ve got to make sure that we get it right and help actually gets to homeowners. There are a lot of complexities involved in terms of figuring out how mortgages that are now with service providers as opposed to being held by a bank are negotiated. So we’ve got to get it right but we intend to get help out of the door as fast as possible. With respect to the recovery package, it’s going to depend on Congress moving quickly. One of the things that I’m trying to emphasize is that speed matters when you’ve got jobs being shed at the pace of half a million a month. The sooner we can get the program up and running, the sooner people can get real help.
How do you answer critics who say that the economic stimulus package tries to do too much, that it’s too big?
Keep in mind that there are other critics who say it’s too small and doesn’t do enough. But, here’s the bottom line, is that we are going to be losing about $2 trillion worth of output over the next two years if we do nothing. For us to have less than an $800 billion package means that we are going to be losing even more jobs or not saving jobs that have to be saved in order to keep this economy moving. So, to the critics I would just say talk to Democratic and Republican economists, conservative and liberal economists, from every school of economic thought, there is almost uniform consensus that not only do we need a stimulus package but it needs to be big enough to actually jolt the economy in place.
You’ve said the economic stimulus is the first plank of the economic plan. Next is financial stabilization. What is the timetable for rolling out your overall economic agenda?
The economic recovery package, we hope to test this week. We’re going to be announcing this week as well the approach we’re taking with respect to financial stabilization. We expect to have a housing plan rolled out in the next several weeks as a complement to these overall efforts. We’re going to also be rolling out an approach to financial regulation, long-term, so that we don’t find ourselves in this crisis again. All of those are going to be one piece in this bigger puzzle of how to get the