US president-elect Barack Obama, vowed on Friday to confront the current economic crisis head on in his first news conference since his victory in Tuesday's election.
Obama, who had earlier held talks with his 17-member economic advisory team in Chicago, said the US faced the "greatest economic challenge of our lifetime ...and we must act swiftly to resolve". "Immediately after I become president, I will confront this economic crisis head-on by taking all necessary steps to ease the credit crisis, help hardworking families, and restore growth and prosperity," he said. "My priority is, how do we grow the economy and how do we grow more jobs?" He added that the US needed a "rescue package for the middle class". "The goal of my plan is to provide tax relief for the families who are struggling and grow the economy from the bottom up," he said. Obama added that an economic stimulus package needed to be passed before or immediately after his inauguration. The president-elect anticipated he would extend unemployment benefits and help local governments so they did not have to lay off staff as well as work on policies to help the US car industry adjust to the economic crisis. The meetings come amid continuing speculation over appointments in Obama's new administration. On Thursday Rahm Emanuel, a Democratic congressman from Illinois, accepted Obama's offer to become White House chief-of-staff. Obama and the vice-president elect, Joe Biden, held talks with 17 members of their transition economic advisory board - including former White House officials and high-ranking executives from companies such as Time Warner, Google and the Hyatt hotel company. Warren Buffett, the renowned billionaire investor, also reportedly participated via telephone. "Throughout his campaign the president-elect has been talking about what we need to do" Larry Summers, a treasury secretary under Bill Clinton, the former US president, and one of the members of the advisory board, told NBC news. "We need to put the middle class at the centre of the policy approach in a way that it hasn't been these last years.'' The latest evidence emerged of the US slumping into recession on Friday as the US government reported that the unemployment rate had risen from 6.1% in September to 6.5% in October. Obama has been meeting privately with his transition team since winning the presidential election, in addition to receiving intelligence briefings and congratulatory calls from world leaders and, most crucially, deciding appointments in his future administration. After Friday's meetings, Obama and his wife, Michelle, are scheduled to visit the White House on Monday at the invitation of US president George Bush. On the light side there was laughter when Obama said his election night promise to find his daughters a dog for the family's move to the White House was "a major issue". He did not mention any specific breed, but said the family's preference was to adopt a dog from a shelter, "a mutt - like me", he added. Mr Obama said they had to find a pet that would not trigger an allergy of his eldest, Malia.